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Press Release

Aptos Babysitter Sentenced To 30 Years In Prison For Production Of Child Pornography, Conspiracy To Distribute Child Pornography

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of California

SAN FRANCISCO - Ryan Michael Spencer was sentenced to 360 months in prison for production of child pornography, conspiracy to distribute and receive child pornography, and related charges, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett.  The sentence was handed down today by the Hon. Charles R. Breyer, United States District Judge.

Spencer, 21, of Aptos, pleaded guilty to the charges on October 10, 2018.  According to papers filed publicly in the case, the FBI began investigating after a witness reported to law enforcement that Spencer’s co-defendant, Bryan Petersen of Tiburon, had child pornography on his computer and in a Dropbox account.  After executing a search warrant at Petersen’s residence, the FBI learned that Petersen had received thousands of images and videos containing child pornography from Spencer.  The FBI also learned that the two men worked with children—Petersen as a babysitter, chess coach, and tutor in Tiburon and Spencer as a babysitter, camp counselor, and teacher-in-training in Aptos—and that they had been taking and exchanging pornographic images children entrusted to their care.

Further investigation revealed that, on several occasions, Spencer had molested at least two of the children he had babysat, including by raping one boy who was less than 10 years old at the time.

When the FBI executed a search warrant at Spencer’s residence in April 2017, several of the seized devices were encrypted and/or password-protected.  United States Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley ordered Spencer to decrypt the devices and Judge Breyer affirmed the magistrate judge’s order in April 2018. After Spencer continued to refuse to enter his passwords, the Court held Spencer in civil contempt and fined him $1,000 per day until he decrypted the devices.  Spencer agreed to decrypt his devices twenty-two days after being held in civil contempt.  

Spencer’s external hard drive contained tens of thousands of images and videos of child pornography downloaded from the internet.  Further, his iPhone contained thousands more images of child pornography, including at least some of the child pornography Spencer had created himself.  These images included dozens, and sometimes hundreds, of images of children’s genitalia that appeared to have been taken surreptitiously as boys—some as young as four or five—were attempting to change their clothes in camp cabins, pool locker rooms, and other locations.  The iPhone also contained images of Spencer molesting one minor. 

On May 31, 2018, a federal grand jury returned a superseding indictment charging Spencer with conspiracy to distribute and receive child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2) and (b)(1), two counts of production of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a), two counts of distribution of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2), receipt of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2), and possession of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B).  The superseding indictment also contained a criminal contempt charge based on Spencer’s refusal to comply with the Court’s decryption order.  

In addition to the 30-year prison term, Judge Breyer imposed a 15-year term of supervised release and ordered Spencer to pay restitution to the victims in an amount to be determined at a later hearing.

On July 25, 2017, Petersen was charged by information with the same charges, except the contempt-of-court charge.  On July 28, 2017, he pleaded guilty to all the charges pending against him.  Judge Breyer has scheduled his sentencing for August 21, 2019.  

Assistant U.S. Attorney Julie D. Garcia is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Tong Zhang.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  

Updated July 11, 2019

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