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INTERNET CHILD-PORNOGRAPHY SUSPECT GRANTED PROBATION AFTER PLEA TO FELONY

Robert Burns Jr., the first local suspect charged with obtaining pornographic sexual images of young children from the Internet, avoided prison today when a judge said he never acted as a sexual predator.

Acting State Supreme Court Justice Joseph P. McCarthy noted that Burns, 50, of the City of Tonawanda, was abused as a child and barred him from having "unsupervised contact" with children. But the judge said that Burns never displayed any "predatory conduct."

McCarthy called the dissemination of such material on the computer network "every parent's nightmare."

He ordered Burns to continue the voluntary counseling he has received since his arrest two weeks after the state's kiddie-porn Internet law went into effect last Nov. 1.

Accompanied to court by several co-workers, Burns, speaking softly, apologized to the judge.

Cheryl Meyers, his attorney, noted that he never placed any children's pornography on the Internet, didn't realize what he was doing was a crime and that his case may spur others to seek help.

Burns pleaded guilty Aug. 7 to one felony charge, and prosecutors dropped 19 other felony charges against him.

Ms. Meyers told the judge the State Legislature should deal with "the sick people that put that material out there" and "victimize" children.

McCarthy faulted Burns for what he called his "private prurient interests" in child pornography and told him his arrest made him "aware of community concerns" about such material.

One of three local suspects charged with the Internet-based sex crime since the law was enacted, Burns was placed on probation. Two different judges had earlier done the same to the two other local suspects.

Prosecutor Nancy A. Gilligan said City of Tonawanda police raided Burns' house last November after they got an anonymous telephone call. An 18-month-old Buffalo-based Internet child-pornography probe by state Attorney General Dennis C. Vacco and U.S. Customs investigators has so far identified more than 1,500 suspected pedophiles in 32 states, Europe, Canada and Japan who send child pornography over the Internet.

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