Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Haller's sentencing memorandum for 41-year-old Russell Freed argues in unusually stark language that Freed deserves far more than the mandatory minimum 15-year prison sentence because his victims were minors.
Freed, a Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission engineer who lost his job last year, is scheduled for sentencing Friday before U.S. District Judge Terrence McVerry.
Freed's attorney, Ronald Hayward, argued in a 55-page memorandum filed last week that sentencing guidelines suggesting his client deserves life in prison shouldn't apply because the production of child pornography charge to which he pleaded guilty in March didn't have sexting in mind. The potential life sentence unfairly lumps in Freed with "mass producer(s) of child smut," Hayward wrote.
Hayward contends his client didn't realize the girls who sent him pictures were minors. Instead, the attorney claims Freed contacted the teens using information he downloaded from the discarded cellphone of a 21-year-old female relative, and assumed that woman's contacts were also about that age. Hayward also argued that many of the pictures sent to Freed had previously been produced by the victims themselves and been shared with boyfriends or others.
But Haller said Freed, who had posed as his young relative when he'd gotten the girls or their boyfriends to send him the racy pictures, also blackmailed some teens through their Facebook pages, many of which made clear the victims were in high school. Freed would extort more pictures of the victims by threatening to tell their friends and relatives about the photos they'd already sent—and eventually targeted his young relative, too, Haller said.
When that young woman threatened suicide, Freed ridiculed and insulted her using his online persona even while he was listening to her complaints, in person, because of her relationship to him, Haller said. At that point, the young woman didn't know Freed was her tormentor, the prosecutor said.
Haller also noted that Freed posted the young woman's contact and biographical info on other websites, including this false description: "I am overweight, not confident at all, and if it wasn't for spellcheck I would sound even more like I was mentally retarded."
Haller also took issue with a psychiatrist's opinion, included in the defense memorandum, that "at no time did Mr. Freed seek out child pornography per se."
Instead, the doctor suggested that "Freed seemed to prefer the 'cat and mouse' game of deception and intrigue involved in duping people into sending him naked pictures of themselves." The doctor noted Freed didn't have any other child pornography beyond the hundreds of images prosecutors traced to the phone extortion.
"This description is truly an insult to his victims well as to cats," Haller wrote. "No four-legged animal would have so sadistically and gratuitously tormented prey for the purpose of sexual gratification and enjoyment," he wrote before ridiculing other defense arguments that, except for his crimes, Haller was a devoted family man.
"And he did so not only during his free time, but also when he was supposed to be working for the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission," Haller wrote. "What a family man, public servant, and class act."