WASHINGTON – An underground ring of adults who created and trafficked in pornographic videos of naked children being beaten with paddles, hairbrushes and canes illustrates how predators use the Internet to connect with people with similar fetishes, federal law enforcement authorities said Monday.'Spanking Club,' a brutal kid porn ring
Eight men and one woman have pleaded guilty to federal charges in connection with the breakup of what FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service officials say was a loose-knit group that swapped videotapes of children as young as 4 being brutally beaten. The investigation continues and more arrests could result, said Michael Heimbach, head of the FBI's Crimes Against Children Unit.
Investigators said the club members met via Internet chat rooms that focus on the brutalization of children, exchanged e-mails about their fantasies and experiences, and visited pornographic Web sites.
While authorities have come across individual cases of people brutalizing children for sexual gratification, Mr. Heimbach and Postal Inspector Raymond Smith said this marked one of the first times that law enforcement had uncovered a network.
The Internet "can fuel the fire" that causes people to move from fantasy to acting on their obsessions, said Mr. Smith, who heads the Postal Service's child-exploitation investigative unit.
Before the Internet, bookstores offered the only pornography outlet, he said. "They'd have to buy the magazine and stand there, where everybody could see them," he said. "That's not the case today. ... Nobody is going to know what you are doing when you are out there surfing the Web."
Sexual deviants "have a real innate need to communicate with others, because deep down inside they know what they are doing is wrong. But by communicating with each other and sharing experiences, it's a psychological support base," he said.
The case began in December 1999 when Canadian police notified U.S. authorities that they believed a video found in the home of David Wadsworth of Montreal, was made in the United States. A phone bill linked Mr. Wadsworth to a Dalton, Ga., computer programmer, David Patterson.
Mr. Patterson, who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison in connection with charges linked to the brutalizing and taping of his young children, cooperated with investigators, authorities said. Most of the children harmed on the tapes were the children of the defendants, Mr. Heimbach said. One suffered permanent injury from repeated beatings.
The FBI and Postal Inspection Service set up an undercover operation that led to the arrests of Mr. Patterson's ex-wife, Shirley Blaney, and others: Jim Nain of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.; Brewton, Ala., elementary school teacher Gordon Harrison Murray; retired chauffeur Donald Fletcher of Lehigh Acres, Fla.; former Scoutmaster Richard Roll of Jamestown, N.Y.; Sunday school teacher George Kelly of Lombard, Ill.; bank security guard John Francis McDonnell of Mineola, N.Y.; and David Bradner of Vanceburg, Ky.
All have pleaded guilty, and most have been sentenced.
WASHINGTON - Georgia man convicted of filming pornographic videos of his own children appears to have been the ringleader of a network of people who traded images of "sadistic and brutal beatings" of children, federal law enforcement officials said Monday. The new revelations about David Lynn Patterson, a 42-year-old computer programmer from Dalton, came as authorities announced that they had broken up an unusual pornography ring called the "Spanking Club."
Patterson "seems to be the core," said Raymond C. Smith, head of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's child exploitation program. "He was the common link, he knew all the players."
In addition to Patterson, eight people have been convicted of producing or possessing pornographic material of children being brutally spanked.
Patterson, who is serving a 10-year sentence in federal prison for child pornography charges, has been cooperating in the on-going federal investigation.
The Spanking Club case is different from most child pornography cases, according to Smith and Michael Heimbach, unit chief of the FBI's Crimes Against Children Unit.
Child pornographers tend to operate alone.
Members of this ring, however, communicated regularly by e-mail and telephone and traded videos through the mail.
This case also stands out because the films do not show adults having sex with children, rather they show children being beaten and spanked with paddles, whips and other devices.
"We've seen organized rings of sadomasochistic beatings with adults, but this is the first time we've seen it with children," Smith said.
The ring included a diverse array of men: an elementary school teacher in Alabama; a nurse and former Boy Scout master in New York; a bank security guard in New York; a retired chauffeur from Florida; a Sunday school teacher in Illinois; a railroad worker in Wisconsin.
But investigators said they had one common interest: watching children getting spanked in a brutal fashion.
"You can literally hear the cries of the children on the video tape saying, what have I done wrong?' " said Jeffrey Brickman, an assistant U.S. attorney in Atlanta who prosecuted Patterson.
In one video, Patterson's daughter is posing with another girl from the neighborhood, Brickman said. The two young girls are seen wearing nothing but their underwear. They are spreading their legs in front of the camera saying to each other, "work with me," Brickman said. Those were the same words that Patterson had used in other video clips on the girls.
The members of the ring met in the shadowy underworld of child pornography through ads placed in publications such as the Domestic Discipline Digest or through "chat rooms" on the Internet.
"They were sharing fantasies, they were sharing real accounts of their victimization of children and they all enjoyed the sadistic beating of kids and the sexual abuse of kids," Smith said.
Patterson was arrested in August of 2000 after a 2-year undercover operation conducted by the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, local police and Canadian police.
A videotape of Patterson spanking four naked children, all under the age of 12, was found in the home of an assistant school principal in Canada who was later arrested for possessing child pornography.
Brickman said Patterson, admitted that he was "fascinated by spanking for as long as he could remember."
Patterson made the videos of his children to trade with other people because he could not get sexually aroused by watching videos of himself spanking his own children, Brickman said.
Patterson's children are now in the custody of the state of Georgia. He also pled guilty to state charges of molesting children and enticing them for indecent purposes.
Patterson's attorney, Michael A. Corbin of Dalton, did not return several phone calls seeking comment.
"The children were deeply disturbed," said Kermit N. McManus, the district attorney of Conasauga Circuit, who prosecuted Patterson on the state offenses.
"I've seen child pornography in my job, but this was the first time that I've seen it in this form-spanking," McManus said.
Authorities say they have rescued 12 children aged 4 to early teens from the ring's grasp.
"Any time children are brutally beaten, it's the most outrageous type of conduct that we have to deal with involving children's issues," said Heimbach, of the FBI. "It wrenches your heart... but when you see children being beaten on videos and their genitalia being filmed, it's very, very disturbing to all of us in law enforcement."
The case underscores the dramatic increase in child exploitation as a result of people using the internet for pornography, say child experts.
Since the FBI launched its Innocent Images National Initiative in 1996, the number of child exploitation cases handled by the FBI has jumped by from 113 to 1,559. That is a 1280 percent increase.
"Child sex exploitation has been going on since the beginning of time, but I think the internet is lowering the inhibitions of the perpetrators," said Duncan Brown, a staff attorney at the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse, a Washington-based nonprofit that specializes in training prosectors how to handle child sex crime cases.
Rebecca Carr's e-mail address is rcarr(at)coxnews.com
See "Porn fighters break ring of kid-spanking fetishists", By Naftali Bendavid, Chicago Tribibune, March 13, 2002 at top left of page at "Spanking Can Be Sexual Abuse."