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Child porn victims write judge; man gets 10 years in prison

Judges read a lot of letters from crime victims, but in child pornography cases the names of the exploited girls and boys are often unknown.

That wasn't the case Monday when Joshua Butler, a 43-year old Buffalo man, appeared in court for sentencing on a possession of child pornography charge.

"I worry about the pictures of me that are out there, and I hate that others see them," one of the victims wrote in a letter to the court. "I wish only that every single one can be found and destroyed."

Seven years old when she was first photographed, the girl said the abuse continued for two years.

In the end, U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo sentenced Butler to 10 years in prison, but not before acknowledging the letters in court and admitting they were difficult to read.

In one of the letters, the mother of another victim said it is child porn users such as Butler who, despite their lack of personal contact with victims, create a marketplace that leads to the sexual abuse of children.

"All of those who trade these images and thereby create the demand for lurid and violent depictions of children are participating in the exploitation of my daughter," she told the court.

Vilardo, in sentencing Butler, noted his family's extensive history of mental illness and the fact that he, too, was sexually abused at the age of seven.

But the judge also made mention of the children depicted in Butler's photos and videos and how they were victimized, not just once, but numerous times because of the people who viewed them.

Vilardo also spoke about the victims' letters and why the "pain" in each one of them made them difficult to read.

"I couldn't read them all at the same time," he said, noting that he often had to put them down, get up and walk around before continuing to read the letters.

Butler pleaded guilty to the federal child pornography charge last year, just a year after he was convicted in a separate state court case involving child pornography.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott S. Allen Jr. said Butler was sentenced in the state case in July 2016 and, while on probation just six days later, was found in possession of a cellphone with more child porn.

Allen also reminded the court of Butler's admissions to investigators that, more than 20 years ago, he sexually abused a 2-year old boy and 5-year-old girl. He was never charged with those crimes.

"This predator cannot be deterred," Allen said at one point Monday.

Butler's defense attorney challenged the prosecution's portrayal of his client and suggested that his mental illness and previous sexual abuse at the hands of a family member help explain his criminal conduct.

"He certainly has urges and a disease that requires treatment," said Jeffrey Bagley, an assistant federal public defender, "but he's not the predator he's been portrayed as."

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