Hemelt: Online child predators threaten those in our community

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, June 29, 2016

There is no more repulsive a crime for a parent to read about than child pornography.

As the father of a 6-year-old and 8-year-old, the notion alone makes my blood boil.

How could someone engage in such acts? It’s sickening.

Unfortunately, it’s prevalent, and concerned residents need look no further than St. John the Baptist Parish to see where law enforcement is battling this issue on the front line.

Just last week, Matthew Wade Guillory, from LaPlace, pleaded guilty to four counts of pornography involving juveniles.

Authorities said he first tried to blame the downloaded images on a member of his family before quickly admitting they were his and telling law enforcement he was sharing the child pornography through “peer-to-peer” file sharing software.

On June 20, Guillory accepted the prosecution team’s offer of seven years with the Department of Corrections, which is to be served without the benefit of probation, parole or suspension of sentence pursuant to state law.

No one likes the idea of spending seven years in jail, but some in the community felt Guillory got off easy, judging by those who commented on L’OBSERVATEUR’s Facebook page.

Guillory first came to the attention of local readers in November when Plaquemines Parish Sheriff Lonnie Greco announced his arrest as part of a task force effort targeting child pornography.

Greco said Guillory was booked with four counts of possession of child pornography, two counts of video voyeurism and as a fugitive from Plaquemines Parish for one count of distribution of child pornography.

Greco said Guillory faced up to 20 years in prison for each count of pornography involving juveniles.

That prognostication and the revelation that Guillory admitted to investigators the youngest victim he had downloaded appeared to be an infant was too much for many local residents who thought a more severe punishment was warranted.

One commenter suggested admissions like Guillory’s are “why people also need to quit putting pics of their babies naked on the Internet.”

The news was just as disturbing earlier this month when authorities announced “the largest ever seizure of child pornography by the Louisiana State Police to date, totaling over one million illicit files seized.”

Included in that haul was Steven Paul Lucia, 30, of LaPlace who State Police Sgt. Jared L. Sandifer said investigators believe downloaded approximately 50 images of child pornography, some depicting children as young as 10.

Authorities do not believe the images found at Lucia’s home depict local children, and Sandifer said investigators do not believe Lucia was distributing the images to others.

That offers little relief to parents forced to combat an ever-growing and dangerous world of online predators.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry announced three arrests Friday of Louisiana men on child pornography charges, including a Port Allen man accused of 1,000 counts of sexual abuse images or videos of children. Landry said his Cyber Crime Unit has investigated thousands of computer crimes that have victimized children from infants to 16 years of age.

Complaints from local residents start many of those investigations. To report child exploitation, call 800-256-4506.

Those wishing to remain anonymous can file an online complaint at dpsweb.dps.louisiana.gov/suspicious.nsf/.

Colonel Mike Edmonson, State Police superintendent, said the Special Victims Unit was created to focus on rescuing victims and targeting perpetrators of crimes involving the exploitation of children and the trafficking of humans for sex or labor.

“The Louisiana State Police will employ all available investigative resources and will remain vigilant as long as individuals choose to possess, distribute and promote child pornography,” Edmonson said. “This is a team effort as we continue to partner with law enforcement agencies across the state to bring these criminals to justice.”

These criminals continue to operate in all communities, and the River Parishes are no exception. Please be vigilant in monitoring your children’s online activity and report suspicious behavior.

Stephen Hemelt is publisher and editor of L’OBSERVATEUR. He can be reached at 985-652-9545 or stephen.hemelt@lobservateur.com.