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CHILD PORN NETS 7 YEARS IN PRISON

John B. Grabenstetter said money was the only thing on his mind when he used the Internet to send out thousands of pictures of young children being tortured, raped and sexually abused.

He said his motive was purely profit, not pedophilia.

Because there is no censorship on the Internet, he said he thought there was nothing wrong with what he was doing.

But the argument carried no weight Tuesday with U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara, who sentenced Grabenstetter to seven years and three months in prison, the maximum term under sentencing guidelines for charges of possession and sale of child pornography.

The 53-year-old Swiss citizen told Arcara he only transmitted the pictures and never physically hurt children or produced any of the images himself. He said he now realizes what he did was wrong and is sorry.

"I was misguided by the computer. The Internet is free of censor. Nothing is illegal," Grabenstetter said.

"Mr. Grabenstetter, you have to live with the pieces (of your life)," Arcara said. "You are not going to see your wife or child for quite some time. And the only person you have to blame is yourself."

Arcara did show some leniency toward Grabenstetter's wife, Bunthum Grabenstetter, 27, a native of Thailand. In an unusual departure from sentencing guidelines, he sentenced her to the eight months she has already served in jail.

The judge said he felt compassion toward Mrs. Grabenstetter because she has a young daughter, Vanessa, who turns 3 in August. The ruling will allow Mrs. Grabenstetter and her daughter to go back to their home in Switzerland. The girl has been cared for by a local foster family since her parents were arrested last August.

Mrs. Grabenstetter, who could have been sentenced to more than five years in prison, sobbed in gratitude. Her attorney, Kimberly Schechter of the Federal Defenders Office, said she was glad the judge showed concern for the child's situation.

"I think it is clear that she was dominated by her husband, and he was a very controlling person," Ms. Schechter said of her client.

The sentencings concluded a lengthy sting investigation that featured police going undercover on the Internet, posing as pedophiles seeking to purchase CD-ROMs of young children engaging in sex. The undercover agents used computer e-mail messages to persuade the Grabenstetters to fly from Switzerland to Buffalo to deliver some CD-ROMs filled with child pornography.

Last November, Grabenstetter admitted offering to sell agents as many as 250 CD-ROMs of child pornography, each with as many as 9,000 images.

The investigation, conducted by U.S. Customs, the U.S. attorney's office and the state attorney general's office, was called one of the first significant cases in the new and growing field of Internet pornography.

The CD-ROMs Grabenstetter was selling included images of young children being raped, sodomized, tortured and urinated upon, Assistant U.S. Attorney Martin J. Littlefield Jr. said.

Undercover agents got Grabenstetter and his wife to come to Buffalo with the CD-ROMs by paying for their air fare and hotel room. Grabenstetter initially accused agents of entrapment after the arrests last August, but eventually wound up taking a plea deal rather than risk going to trial.

Grabenstetter has been given a hard time by other prisoners in the Niagara County Jail, according to his attorney, Patrick J. Brown. "Through reports in the media, the other prisoners think he is a child abuser," Brown said. "He has been abused and ostracized by other prisoners. The other day, a prisoner threw boiling water at him as he sat in his cell."

Brown said he was "disgusted and appalled" by the computer images his client was selling, but he said the Swiss have a different view toward such activity.

"From what he tells me, books of child pornography are fairly readily available in bookstores over there," Brown said. "And as far as the Internet goes, there is no censorship. Personally, when pictures of young children are involved, I think there should be censorship."

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