Sunday, June 3, 2007

Former ACLU Official Pleads Guilty

From the June 2, 2007 Washington Post:

A former Arlington County youth sports coach who once headed the Virginia ACLU pleaded guilty yesterday to charges that he purchased child pornography so graphic that prosecutors called it "sadistic."

Charles Rust-Tierney, 51, admitted that he accessed more than 850 pornographic images of children as young as 4, including a six-minute video depicting the sexual torture of children set to a song by the band Nine Inch Nails. Authorities said Rust-Tierney used a computer in his 10-year-old son's bedroom to view the files, some of which were contained on CDs bearing an American flag logo.


"So these were actual children under the age of 12 engaged in sexual activity?" Judge T.S. Ellis asked.

"I'm agreeing to that, yes, your honor," Rust-Tierney said.

"Well, is it true or not?" Ellis asked.

"Yes, it is," Rust-Tierney replied.

Rust-Tierney, a public defender in the District and a past president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced Sept. 7. His attorneys and prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of 8 to 10 years.

The guilty plea brought a quiet end to a case that has triggered strong emotions locally and nationally. Rust-Tierney is a former president of Arlington Little League, and more than two dozen people, including numerous fellow lawyers, packed a federal courtroom in March to say that he should be released from jail. Parents of children he has coached wrote letters of support.


The case has attracted national attention, with some critics and bloggers accusing the media of initially downplaying the story because of Rust-Tierney's ACLU connection. He was president of the board of directors of the ACLU's Virginia affiliate from 1993 to 2005 and resigned from the ACLU's board the day he was arrested in February.


Prosecutors said yesterday that they had identified at least 30 child pornography victims shown in the images and videos Rust-Tierney downloaded and that the images were created in places ranging from England and Texas to Scranton, Pa. Rust-Tierney used his credit card to purchase the images from child pornography Web sites on at least five occasions, spending about $420.

At one point, court documents said, Rust-Tierney e-mailed the operators of a Web site requesting free access to a child pornography video normally sold separately for $100. The Web site operators e-mailed back with a link to the video.

Rust-Tierney's plea agreement with prosecutors said the images he downloaded showed "sadistic or masochistic conduct."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa C. Buchanan, who declined to release Rust-Tierney at the hearing in March, had described the material on the computer as "the most perverted and nauseating and sickening type of child pornography" she has seen in 10 years on the bench.

As I mentioned when this fine upstanding member of the bar was arrested on these charges:
I've long been unsure whether the ACLU's ahistorical interpretation of the First Amendment was an irrational zealotry for a principle for something a bit darker.
This inclines me to wonder how much of the ACLU's self-destructive enthusiasm might reflect the secret wishes and desires of prominent ACLU members like Rust-Tierney.

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