Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex J. Grant announced that a federal judge had sentenced a 76-year-old user of the darknet child abuse forum “Playpen” to eight years in federal prison. The Massachusetts man, Edward F. Dupont, had formerly pleaded guilty to downloading hundreds of child abuse pictures from the now-defunct darknet forum. The prosecution had argued that Dupont deserved a sentence of 15 years. For numerous reasons, though, Judge Mark Mastroianni agreed with the defense and handed down the significantly lighter sentence of eight years in prison.
Dupont had fathered four of his own children and had 12 grandchildren, the court heard. He adamantly stated that he had never physically abused or acted inappropriately around any child. He said that physically harming a child was something he could never do. According to his narrative, he had not even ventured into the darknet in search of child abuse material.
“I would never hurt a child in my life. I never have and I never would,” the grandfather of 12 told the court.
He said that one day, in a magazine he had been reading at his dentist’s office, he learned about the darknet. Not long after discovering the darknet existed and learning how to access the darknet, the 76-year-old allegedly searched the darknet for information on terror groups or “Al Qaeda cells in the Middle East.” He may have been the only defendant in the Playpen case who detailed his search for terror-related content and how the trail eventually led to darknet child abuse forums.
After the FBI raided the man’s home in late 2015, forensic investigators discovered illegal pictures and videos on his storage devices. That reportedly found several guides and tutorials on child abuse. They also found a guide titled “How to Practice Child Love” while searching his house. According to Dupont, the FBI had failed to discover all the storage devices with illegal content on them when they had executed their search warrant. After getting out of jail, the man told the court that he went back to his home and smashed the remaining drives with a hammer. He explained that he feared what he might have discovered on the USB drives.
“I think curiosity got the best of me. It’s not an excuse,” the man explained. “What I did was truly despicable.” The prosecution argued that the severity of his crimes warranted a severe prison sentence of 15 years. Dupont argued that his age, alongside other unidentified factors, should play into his prison term. The judge told the court that no prison sentence could match the abuse the victims of child abuse endured. Even pedophiles who simply viewed the videos, the judge said, created a demand for more content that would circulate the internet forever.
Despite the statements regarding the lack of any possible punishment that could match the crimes committed, the judge sided with the defense and sentenced Dupont to eight years in prison.