U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Rose sentenced a former member of the darknet child abuse forum “PlayPen” to life imprisonment and another 10 years on top of the life sentence. Both the judge and an Assistant United States Attorney called the man’s crimes the worst he had ever seen and that the only fitting sentence was life imprisonment. No other case built on evidence obtained through the FBI’s Operation Pacifier has resulted in a life sentence thus far.
But Robert S. Jones, a 33-year-old pedophile with a list of prior crimes committed throughout Ohio, had committed far more “depraved and evil” crimes than the average convicted member of the former darknet child abuse forum known as “Playpen”. His crimes were so extreme that his defense attorney had to remind the court—on numerous occasions—that the case was not a homicide case and his client had not committed murder.
Jones’ “depraved and evil” actions were the worst “I have seen in my 27 years on the bench,” Judge Rose told the court. The judge added, “I cannot fathom your release back into society.” I could not rest a moment if I knew you at some point would be free to go back into the community and reoffend.” The judge had watched four videos produced by Jones and had the images burned into his memory. He had to watch Jones torture a baby. In that video, the judge said, Jones had repeatedly stopped abusing the baby, turned towards the camera, and described the abuse in vivid detail.
Even though the videos Jones had created and shared on the darknet featured Jones’ face, voice, and other potentially identifying elements, he had only gotten caught after the FBI had illegally hacked hundreds of thousands of Tor users in the United States and elsewhere. His crimes, despite their apparent level of extremity, never caught the attention of global law enforcement agencies (or, at least, law enforcement’s investigation into Jones lacked the international element seen during the Peter Scully hunt).
Jones had not committed any homicides the FBI could prove, though. And despite the severity of the 13 counts of producing child pornography and child abuse, homicide cases often attract more attention from both the media and the police. Jon Paul Rion, Jones’ defense attorney, explained that much of his client’s actions came from his upbringing in an alleged Satanic cult.
First Assistant U.S. Attorney Vipal Patel explained that Jones had committed crimes that represented “among the worst, if not the worst, offense conduct had ever seen in this courtroom.” The sentencing guideline chart for Jones ends at a “score” of 43. Patel said Jones had broken records at a score of 51 points.
In closing, Patel said, “the defendant simply cannot function in society.” And on the topic of the life imprisonment, he added, “[Jones’] past recidivism is too great, his conduct too damaging and dangerous, and his risk of re-offending too high.”