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According to a press release, Kentucky State Police have arrested three men on charges related to child pornography.
One of the men involved was from Willisburg.
The action was the result of search warrants pertaining to illegal Internet activity executed by the agency’s Electronic Crime Branch. One of the arrests followed an investigation spanning two states and involved a nine-year-old victim.
Eric Dean Bryant, 23, of Pine Knot, was arrested on Jan. 30, 2011; James Cheatham, 33, of Willisburg, was arrested on Jan. 31, 2011; and Alfred Stratton, 55, of Jeffersonville, was arrested on Feb. 1, 2012.
Bryant was arrested after parents of a nine-year-old North Carolina boy discovered inappropriate conversations and photos on their son’s email and notified the Fuquay-Varina (N.C.) Police Dept.
After an investigation by the police department and the North Carolina Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, officers traced the suspect to Kentucky and turned the case over to the KSP Electronic Crime Branch.
Detectives identified and interviewed Bryant, which led to a search warrant at his residence in Pine Knot.
The McCreary Co. Sheriff’s Office and Det. Billy Correll, of KSP Post 11 in London, assisted the KSP Electronic Crime Branch in executing the search warrant.
Bryant was charged with possession of matter portraying the sexual performance by a minor, use of electronic communications system to procure a minor for a sexual offense, and promoting a minor under the age of 16 in a sex performance. He was lodged in the McCreary County Detention Center.
Cheatham was arrested as the result of an ongoing undercover ICAC investigation. He was accused of sharing images of child sexual exploitation, and a search warrant was executed at his residence with the assistance of KSP Post 15 in Columbia.
Cheatham was charged with possession of matter portraying the sexual performance of a minor and distribution of matter portraying the sexual performance of a minor. He was lodged in the Marion County jail.
Stratton was arrested as the result of an ongoing undercover ICAC investigation that began in December of 2011.
He was accused of sharing images of child sexual exploitation, and a search warrant was executed at his residence with the assistance of KSP Post 8 in Morehead and the Montgomery Co. Sheriff’s Office.
Stratton was charged with possession of matter portraying the sexual performance of a minor and distribution of matter portraying the sexual performance of a minor. He was lodged in the Montgomery County Regional Detention Center.
The investigation is continuing and additional charges are expected.
Equipment used to distribute child pornography and thousands of images and videos of child pornography were seized during the execution of these search warrants. The KSP Forensic Laboratory will be conducting examinations of the seized items.
On Feb. 2, the KSP Electronic Crime Branch, with the assistance of the Bardstown Police Department, conducted an additional search warrant in Nelson County in which computer-related items were seized. That investigation is currently ongoing.
The KSP Electronic Crime Branch is part the Kentucky ICAC Task Force, which is made-up of dozens of officers throughout the Commonwealth that investigate the crime of child sexual exploitation.
KSP administers the task force, one of 61 coordinated programs created nationwide in an effort to combat the growing problem of child sexual exploitation.
“The program really emphasizes partnerships,” said Lt. Shane Bates, commander of the KSP Electronic Crime Branch. “Technology now allows offenders to contact victims well beyond our borders or share pornographic material with people anywhere in the world.”
“Without the group effort involving the Fuquay-Varina Police Dept., the North Carolina ICAC Task Force, and the KSP Electronic Crime Branch, the arrest of Bryant would not have occurred,” Bates said.
There are several misconceptions about child pornography. Some believe child pornography refers only to photographs or videos of babies in the bathtub.
Others think of teenagers in pigtails and schoolgirl uniforms. The child pornography that many on the task force deal with on a daily basis is far worse.
It involves pictures and videos of children, often in diapers, being violently molested. Not only do these children bear the suffering and brutal trauma of the sexual victimization, they will continue to be exploited every time their images are traded online.
As technology grows, so does the opportunity for child pornographers to exploit it.
Social networking sites, chat rooms, file-sharing programs, message boards and forums now make it easier for people to trade child pornography and connect with children.
“While computers and cell phones remain the primary means of communication,” Bates said, “game systems that can connect to the Internet give predators another way to gain access to children electronically.”
“In the past, parents primarily worried about the chat rooms their children visited on a desktop computer. Today, it’s much easier to make contact with children. Nowadays nearly everyone has a phone that can connect to the Internet, including the ones we provide to our children,” Bates said.
Most parents have become more diligent about the basics, such as keeping the computer in the family room, but we need to continue our education as technology changes. Therefore, one major initiative of the ICAC Task Force is to promote community awareness to prevent victimization.
“Thinking about and discussing these crimes can certainly be difficult,” Bates said. “But it’s only through educating the public and our children that we can ever hope to find a solution for it.”