Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that RICKY PATRICK HESTER, 25, of Granger, Indiana, was found guilty on both counts of a two-count Indictment that charged him with receipt, distribution, and possession of child pornography. The verdict came following a five-day jury trial in White Plains federal court before U.S. District Judge Vincent L. Briccetti.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said: “Ricky Patrick Hester received, distributed, and saved child pornography. In collecting and sharing these appalling videos, he contributed to the victimization of the most vulnerable members of our society, our children. Thanks to the efforts of the Department of Homeland Security, Hester’s conduct was brought to light and he will now be punished for his serious crimes.”
According to the Indictment and the evidence at trial:
From at least as early as November 2012, HESTER used a Yahoo! email account, a file-sharing account on Dropbox.com, as well as his personal cellphone, to collect and share images of children being forced into sexual activity.
On December 18, 2013, HESTER was interviewed by agents with Homeland Security Investigations (“HSI”) and he admitted that he had used his Yahoo! email account to send child pornography, that his preference was for boys as young as four years old, that he had used Dropbox to trade child pornography with others, and that he stored child pornography on his cellphone.
HESTER’s cellphone, which was seized by HSI on December 18, 2013, during a search warrant of HESTER’s dorm room at West Point, contained approximately 1,200 images and videos of children engaging in sexual activity.
Evidence at trial included approximately 100 emails sent or received by HESTER. In many of these emails, HESTER requested videos and images of “kids being forced to do stuff,” “boys being tied up and peed on,” and “man boy hardcore.” In numerous emails, he indicated a preference for boys aged four to 10 years old.
HESTER entered the United States Military Academy at West Point as a cadet in August 2009. He took a sabbatical from West Point from August 2011 through August 2012. He returned to West Point in the fall of 2012. At the time of his arrest, on December 19, 2013, HESTER was one semester away from graduation.
HESTER faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison on each of the two counts in the Indictment and a mandatory minimum term of five years in prison.
The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.
HESTER lived in Granger, Indiana, from his arrest until his conviction today. Judge Briccetti remanded him following his conviction. In remanding the defendant, Judge Briccetti underscored that the videos that HESTER sought out and shared depicted children being tortured.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the Department of Homeland Security. He also thanked the Army Criminal Investigation Command for their assistance with the investigation.
This prosecution is being handled by the White Plains Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Lauren Schorr, Marcia S. Cohen, and Daniel Filor are in charge of the prosecution.