Figuring he faced decades in prison, Earl D. Warner decided to vent Friday.
So during the part of the sentencing hearing at which defendants usually say they're sorry, the 56-year-old Mercer man who was found guilty of production and possession of child pornography instead praised his own "lifetime of doing nothing but caring for people and doing whatever I can to help them out."
He criticized the FBI agents and state troopers who investigated him. And he blamed his woes on a former neighbor who, he said, led him down the path to videotaping 11- and 12-year-old girls while directing their sexually explicit poses and dances.
"I feel bad for all of the victims here," Warner said. "None of this was supposed to be like this here. ... I never bribed anybody or paid anybody or asked anybody to take their clothes off or anything else."
When the prosecutor tried to cut his monologue short, he said that he should have up to an hour to get "things off my chest."
U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab promptly sentenced him to 40 years in prison, calling his conduct "completely depraved."
Warner "will leave jail in a body bag," predicted his attorney, David Chontos.
The FBI investigation started with the discovery of images of scantily clad girls in Colorado and moved to California before working its way to Mercer. There state and local police got involved.
The link between West and East was Armando Cruz, 46, who moved to Mercer and became acquainted with Warner.
Warner's defense was that he had to make child pornography to trade for images held by Cruz. Otherwise, Cruz would release images of the same victims online, causing greater harm.
Was that a good plan? "I have showed stupidity to the max," Warner told the judge.
U.S. attorney Carolyn Bloch countered that Warner memorialized his "exploitation [of girls] in videos and photographs for his own sexual pleasure."
Following a three-day trial in January, a jury took four hours to find Warner guilty of six counts of production and one count of possession of child pornography.
Cruz is serving 35 years in prison for production of child pornography.
If Warner ever leaves prison, he is barred for life from any unsupervised contact with minors.
Mr. Chontos called the 40-year prison term "an illegal sentence" because it contains an extra decade for possession of child pornography.
Warner said he would file an appeal. "If you shoot the president of the United States you get less time than what I got," he protested, before marshals escorted him out of the courtroom.
Rich Lord: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1542 or Twitter @richelord. First Published May 30, 2014 11:57 AM