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Former airman gets 8-year sentence for child porn

PANAMA CITY — A former airman stationed locally was sentenced Wednesday to more than eight years in prison for three counts of child exploitation stemming from possession of child pornography, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Daniel Freiwald was arrested in July after he was indicted on three counts of possessing child pornography. He pleaded guilty in September to two counts, one of which carried a minimum mandatory sentence of five years in prison.

According to court records:

Undercover investigators signed into the peer-to-peer file sharing network BitTorrent and identified an IP address that hosted child pornography files between Dec. 7, 2012 and Jan 23, 2013 on it in Bay County. The investigators traced the IP address to a computer at Freiwald’s address on Tyndall Air Force Base, and executed a search warrant.

Freiwald told investigators he knew it was illegal to download the files, but he did it because he had a problem and couldn’t stop. He said he typically downloaded the files, looked at them and then deleted them. He didn’t know he was sharing the files because he didn’t understand how BitTorrent works.

Judge Richard Smoak’s sentence was at the low end of federal sentencing guidelines for a case like this. Freiwald’s public defender, Michelle Spaven, argued federal sentencing guidelines in child porn cases are so excessively harsh that 60 percent of defendants in similar cases received below-guideline sentences.

Spaven wrote in a memo that the married 30-year-old father of two, who was twice deployed to Iraq, likely turned to alcohol and porn to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder in 2010. She cited statistics that M. Casey Rodgers, the chief judge of the U.S. Northern District of Florida, presented to the United States Sentencing Commission in testimony last year.

There are federal directives that increase the sentencing-guideline range higher when the child in the images is younger than 12, when the conduct involves more than 600 images, when the defendant uses a computer to access the images, and when the image depicts sadistic, masochistic or violent conduct. Those enhancements apply in the vast majority of local cases even if the harm of the crime is extraordinary, Rodgers told the commission.

“…That ferries the ordinary offender to the high end of the statutory sentencing range,” Rodgers said, adding that judges in this district are “increasingly imposing below-guideline sentences based on a concern over the integrity and reliability” of federal sentencing guidelines.

Spaven asked for the minimum mandatory sentence of five years, arguing that Freiwald had already lost his military career and was not likely to reoffend after his release. Smoak stayed within the guidelines, however, and sentenced Freiwald to five years of supervised release following his prison term.
 

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