Child porn effort snares 25

jfrank@newsobserver.comOctober 28, 2011 

— N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper announced Thursday the arrest of 25 of the state's "hardcore child exploiters" and said it was just the beginning of an effort to crack down on Internet pornography and child sexual abuse.

As a result of "Operation Spyglass," authorities arrested 24 men - including five from Wake County - over five months on felony charges ranging from the possession and distribution of child pornography to indecent liberties with a minor. Another man, Louisburg dance teacher Bruce Anthony Howard, was charged Thursday with 11 counts of child sexual exploitation.

Those arrested include a Sampson County teacher, a Robeson County firefighter, an active-duty Marine captain and a Wake County television editor with The Learning Channel, the attorney general's office reported.

Cooper, who stood with North Carolina's three U.S. attorneys at a press conference, said many of the men will face federal child pornography charges, which carry mandatory minimum sentences ranging from five to 15 years in prison.

In one case, Cooper said, investigators raided a house and found a young girl being physically abused. In other cases, authorities seized computers containing thousands of illegal photos and videos of abused children.

The men from Wake County charged with distribution of child pornography were John David Herron, 30, who faces 20 counts; Kyle Martin Inch, 26, who faces 11 counts; William Johnson Blankinship, the TV editor, who faces 10 counts; Jean Paul Berard, 31, who faces four counts; and Edward Joseph O'Brien, 38, who faces one count.

'We will get more'

Cooper said the arrests are the initial results from the statewide sweep.

"We will get more," he said. "This crackdown not only targets high-volume dealers but sends a strong message to anyone trading in the business of child sexual abuse that this is a crime and it will not be tolerated in North Carolina."

State Bureau of Investigation officials who helped lead the operation said relatively new technology and data from Internet service providers lets officials pinpoint the location of high-volume traders in child pornography. They refused to disclose further details.

Cooper also used the event to appeal to state budget writers not to cut law enforcement funding amid budget deficits. "We need to send a message that public safety is a top priority," he said.

Frank: 919-829-4698

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