Thursday, April 19, 2007

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Federal Court Sentences Hays County Man on Child Pornography Charge

AUSTIN – A Hays County child pornographer was sentenced to five years in federal prison today for stockpiling sexually explicit images of children on his home computer. The case was prosecuted by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s Cyber Crimes Unit and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Paul Anthony Lawrence, 64, of Niederwald, pleaded guilty in February to one count of possession of child pornography. Upon completion of his sentence, Lawrence will be under supervised release for eight years and will be required to register as a sex offender for life.

“Texans will not tolerate criminals who prey upon children,” Attorney General Abbott said. “The Cyber Crimes Unit will continue to protect young Texans by aggressively cracking down on child pornographers and sexual predators. We are grateful to U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton and Hays County Sheriff Allen Bridges for their assistance and commitment to Texas children.”

An investigation by the Hays County Sheriff’s Department led to a search of Lawrence’s residence. Law enforcement officers confiscated a computer and external media from the home, and the Cyber Crimes Unit’s forensic analysis of the equipment revealed images of child pornography.

Cyber Crimes Unit investigators discovered that Lawrence used computer software to superimpose images of his face over those of the adults sexually assaulting the children in several of the photos. Lawrence also cut and pasted images of a young relative’s face over those of the child victims.

The case is one of many pursued under Project Safe Childhood (PSC), a national initiative announced by U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales earlier this year. PSC encourages the use of multi-jurisdictional task forces to investigate the sexual exploitation of children over the Internet. In addition to tough law enforcement, PSC encourages community-wide campaigns to assist victims and to educate parents, other adults, and children about Internet safety. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

In Texas, investigative assistance in these matters is provided by the Texas Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC). In May 2006, Attorney General Abbott’s Cyber Crimes Unit was awarded a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention to establish an ICAC Task Force. The Texas Attorney General’s ICAC Task Force is one of almost 50 federally funded task forces across the country dedicated to this project.

Attorney General Abbott has earned a national reputation for aggressively arresting and prosecuting online child predators. In 2003, he launched the Cyber Crimes Unit, which targets online predators by assuming the identities of young teenagers in Internet chat rooms, and the Fugitive Unit, which locates convicted child sex offenders who have violated the terms of their parole and could be stalking children. Attorney General Abbott’s initiative has resulted in more than 500 arrests of such offenders. His office also has obtained convictions against 60 men on child pornography charges.

For more information, contact the Office of the Attorney General at (800) 252-8011 or visit the Attorney General’s Web site at www.texasattorneygeneral.gov.