WICHITA, KAN. - A Smith County, Kan., man pleaded guilty Monday to possessing and sending child pornography, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said. The man’s plea came after an unsuccessful effort to suppress evidence gathered by Internet service provider AOL.
Walter E. Ackerman, 56, Lebanon, Kan., pleaded guilty to one count of distributing child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography. In his plea, he admitted using AOL email to send child pornography to another user. The child pornography was detected by AOL using an automated image detection and filtering process that scans for malware, viruses and illegal images such as child pornography. AOL sent the information to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which in turn notified the Kansas Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force in the Wichita/Sedgwick County Exploited and Missing Children’s Unit (EMCU).
Ackerman’s attorney moved to suppress the email evidence on the grounds that the evidence was obtained through an illegal search and seizure with AOL and NECMEC acting as government investigators without a search warrant. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren ruled that neither AOL nor NCMEC are state actors and the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure does not apply to them.
Sentencing is set for Nov. 24. He faces a penalty of not less than five years and not more than 20 years and a fine up to $250,000 on the distribution count and a maximum penalty of 10 years on the other count.Grissom commended Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Kansas Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the Wichita/Sedgwick County Exploited and Missing Children’s Unit and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Hart for their work on the case.