Texas Band Teacher Gets 5 Years for Distributing Child Porn

abuse
AP/Matt Houston

A South Texas high school band teacher, who recently pleaded guilty to sharing child pornography online, will spend five years in federal prison.

Parker J. Pendergraph was sentenced Thursday for the distribution of child pornography. Visiting U.S. Circuit Judge Gregg Costa ordered him to serve five years in prison and then, eight years on supervised released upon completion of his prison term.

Pendergraph, 29, was an assistant band director at Carroll High School in the Corpus Christi Independent School District until his arrest in February when he was suspended. He also taught at two middle schools.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas said they opened an investigation in November 2017 when an electronic chatroom company named ChatStep notified the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) that a known image of a sexually exploited child had been uploaded onto their Internet site. That photograph depicted a naked 14-year-old girl sitting on a chair with her genitalia exposed to the camera.

Authorities located the suspect by tracing the uploaded image of the minor to a specific IP address. It took them to a user known as “jack” which, in turn, led them to Pendergraph. Law enforcement obtained a search warrant for the suspect’s home, seizing several digital devices. On this equipment, investigators discovered around 900 other child porn-related images, of which 390 were child erotica.

During the investigation, police showed Pendergraph the image of the nude minor. He admitted to uploading it. The suspect also acknowledged he went to chat sites and wanted to “trade pictures of nude girls.” He then admitted to viewing pornographic images of children on his computer for almost one year. In March, Pendergraph formally pleaded guilty to the child porn charge.

In the courtroom Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hugo Martinez noted the troubling reality of such a case given Pendergraph was an educator. “He placed himself around children who were the exact same age of the image he was looking at,” said Martinez.

One of Pendergraph’s attorneys, Scott Ellison, pointed out to the court that his client had no prior criminal history and cooperated with authorities throughout the investigation, according to the Caller-Times. Ultimately, the prosecution and defense agreed on a five year prison term. Ellison requested Pendergraph be sent to a prison where they offered residential sex offender treatment. Costa said he would recommend Pendergraph to a facility that had these rehabilitative services and work skills programs. He encouraged Pendergraph to take advantage of them.

Following his incarceration, Pendergraph will have to comply with numerous requirements designed to restrict his access to children and to the Internet. He also must register as a sex offender.

The Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations and the Corpus Christi Police Department’s – Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force – conducted the investigation with the assistance of NCMEC. This case was part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the U.S. Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims.

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