BALTIMORE — Former College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn was sentenced Monday to 30 years in prison for possession and distribution of child pornography.
Wojahn, 48, pleaded guilty in August to 140 child pornography charges, according to online court records.
His indictment charged him with possession, possession with intent to distribute and distribution of material that exploits children — a mixture of misdemeanors and felonies with maximum penalties ranging from five to 10 years’ incarceration.
Prince George’s County Circuit Judge Karen H. Mason on Monday sentenced him to 150 years in prison but suspended all but 30 years of it, according to the Prince George’s County state’s attorney’s office and online court records. That means that if Wojahn violates the conditions of his eventual release, a judge could send him back to prison for up to 120 years.
Mason tacked on five years of supervised probation upon Wojahn’s release from custody and ordered that he register as a sex offender.
People convicted of nonviolent crimes in Maryland are eligible for parole after serving 25% of their sentence.
Wojahn’s attorney, David H. Moyse, said Wojahn had agreed to the punishment as part of the plea agreement with prosecutors.
“It was a difficult day for him and his family,” Moyse said of the sentencing.
Like many child pornography cases, the investigation into Wojahn stems from a tip to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, a nonprofit.
At a news conference after the sentencing hearing, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha N. Braveboy described Wojahn’s punishment as “fair” and “instructive.”
“It instructs us that child pornography is not simply about images. It’s about the pain behind the images, the tragedies that have occurred in these young people’s lives that should never have happened to them,” Braveboy said. “No child deserves to be sexually abused. No child deserves for their images to be displayed on the internet or any platform for hundreds or thousands or possibly millions of people to view.”
Prince George’s County police said the National Center on Feb. 17 flagged a social media account, “skippy_md,” as having uploaded child pornography to the messaging app Kik in January. With a subpoena, detectives were able to trace the account to Wojahn’s government email address, according to police.
Eleven days after receiving the notification, detectives searched Wojahn’s home, police said. They seized three cellphones, a storage device, a tablet and a computer.
Police also said Wojahn admitted he owned the account during an interview with detectives while his house was being searched.
Assistant State’s Attorney Monica Meyers told reporters at the news conference that investigators found videos and images of the exploitation of more than 500 children on Wojahn’s cellphone alone — more children, she said, than attended the closest elementary school to the former mayor’s home.
Tapping into a network of child abuse investigators from around the world, detectives and prosecutors were able to identify 52 of the children who were exploited, Meyers said, and several victims provided impact statements that prosecutors read aloud in court.
“This is not a victimless crime,” Meyers said. “It impacts these children today and for the rest of their lives.”
Braveboy said Wojahn appeared to have accepted responsibility for his conduct by pleading guilty to all 140 counts.
The judge expressed in court that she believed “his remorse was genuine,” Moyse said.
“He appreciated her recognition of his genuine remorse,” Moyse said. “He’s focused on doing what he can to rehabilitate himself and make this up to the people that love and support him.”
Wojahn, once a popular progressive politician, was first elected to the College Park City Council in 2007. He went on to become mayor in 2015, serving for seven years until resigning abruptly on the eve of his arrest.
He cited the search warrant in his March 2 resignation letter.
“While this investigation does not involve any official city business of any kind, it is in the best interests of our community that I step aside and not serve as a distraction,” Wojahn wrote. He said he was stepping down to “deal with my own mental health” and asked the public to keep him and his family in their prayers.
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