L.A. County Man Sentenced to Six Years for Possessing Child Pornography

Photo by Tyler Rutherford

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A plumber from Los Angeles County who collected thousands of images and online videos of child pornography, including some depicting children under the age of two, was sentenced today to six years behind bars and will remain under federal supervision for the rest of his life. 

Richard Celestino of Green Valley, a community on the eastern edge of the Antelope Valley, pleaded guilty in July to possession of child pornography, admitting that he used a peer-to-peer file-sharing network to distribute and possess more than 8,000 illicit images and videos. 

Prior to describing some of the ``horrific'' sadomasochistic imagery the 48-year-old defendant collected, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson warned potentially squeamish audience members to leave the courtroom. Nobody left, but it was clear later on that a few probably wished they had. During the 90-minute hearing in Los Angeles federal court, Anderson noted that each time child pornography is circulated online, it perpetuates the abuse and revictimizes those pictured.

``This, unfortunately, is not a unique conviction in this district,'' the judge said from the bench, adding that Celestino had a ``long history'' of involvement in trading and collecting the illegal material. Added Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathy Yu: ``You don't just stumble on 8,000 videos and images.''

Along with the federal prison sentence and lifetime registration as a sex offender, Celestino must pay a $5,000 special assessment pursuant to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, plus restitution, in an amount to be determined, paid to any victims identified in the child pornography. 

After Celestino's attorney unsuccessfully argued for a three-year term, the defendant apologized ``to all the victims whose images I watched on those videos.''

Although not charged with touching any children, Celestino was found to be ``deceptive'' on a polygraph examination when questioned about whether he ever had any ``actual contacts'' with a child, the judge said. Anderson also said Celestino had demonstrated a lack of ``impulse control'' as a result of having viewed child pornography months after the search warrant in the case was executed.

Yu told the court that Celestino ``either cannot or will not control his impulses.''

Sentencing was delayed Thursday for 24 hours to allow the defense to consider a condition of post-prison supervision the judge was planning to impose. Celestino's lawyer had requested a residency restriction allowing his client to live anywhere after prison that was not ``within direct view'' of places frequented by children, such as schools or playgrounds.Anderson refused, demanding a definitive boundary he called a ``bright line'' requiring that the sex offender live at least 2,000 feet away from schools or playgrounds. 

If the defense would not accept such a restriction, the judge said, Celestino was free to withdraw his guilty plea and possibly go to trial. 

Anderson said that he found ``unsettling'' any ambiguity about where Celestino could live in relation to children.

"The closer a defendant's residency is to a school, the greater risk of contact with children who walk by,'' the judge said. "A residency requirement is warranted by the facts of this case.''Anderson said that Celestino would not leave prison cured of his urges. 

"The issues he suffers from are not easy to overcome,'' the judge said. ``He's going to be battling these demons probably for the rest of his life.''

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