A 55-years-old former juvenile official from Alaska was sentenced on Monday to four years in federal prison for possession of child pornography, a crime that he had pleaded guilty to, in October 2019.
Dennis Weston, of Anchorage, Alaska, was the Deputy Director of the State of Alaska Department of Juvenile Justice, under the provisions of the designation, he also served as the superintendent of McLaughlin Youth Center. Weston was found guilty of one count of sexual exploitation of a child, possession of child pornography.
Investigation and arrest
Court documents state that Weston answered an online advertisement in April 2017 and began a year-long correspondence with the person. However, he was not aware that the person he was communicating with was an undercover FBI agent. His correspondence included discussion about exploiting a fictional child named 'Becky', who was mentioned in the post, along with other topics related to child exploitation.
Calling himself 'John', Weston corresponded with the FBI agent through his cell phone. During the course of the investigation, it was revealed that 'John' was Weston in reality, and held the position of the Deputy Director of the State of Alaska Department of Juvenile Justice.
A laptop was seized during a search of Weston's residence. In it, 22 images depicting minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct were found. Evidence also showed that in order to search for and gain access to images depicting child exploitation, the juvenile official had used a Tor browser as a means of entry into the dark web. Ten of the 22 images that illustrated child sexual exploitation were that of children below twelve years of age.
Noting that Weston had violated the trust of the community, US District Judge Sharon L Gleason pronounced that the intention of the sentence was to deliver the message that "all of us in this society are accountable to the law," at the hearing. Weston was sentenced to four years in federal prison. Following this, he will be out on supervised release for a period of ten years.
Not the first juvenile official to be sentenced this month
Weston is a part of a long list of officials, in positions that brought them in close contact with juveniles, to be found guilty for child pornography-related charges this year.
Earlier this month, Alan Kochis, 63, a former high-ranking official in the Bangor School Department in Maine, was guilty of uploading child pornography containing boys under the age of twelve, on to his home computer. He was sentenced to six months in prison, along with two years in probation after release. He will be registered as a sex offender for 25 years.
On 17 December, Michael Scott Porter, 51, a former teacher with the Newport News school system, was sentenced, to five years in prison for uploading and receiving images of child sexual abuse.
Today, Bradley Smith, 67, of Jericho, Vermont, a para-educator, who was found guilty of one count of possession of child pornography, was sentenced to 24 months in prison. The sentence will be by seven years of supervised release, and the payment of a $100 special assessment.
Laws concerning child pornography
The laws concerning child pornography in the US are covered under: