An Eagle Point man will spend at least 37 years in federal prison for repeatedly sexually abusing a 4-year-old girl, taking photos of his abuse and emailing them to other child molesters in a case prosecutors called predatory and despicable.
Christopher Keith Hammer, 43, avoided life imprisonment by accepting the mandatory minimum sentence for his crimes in a plea deal settled Monday in U.S. District Court in Medford before Senior District Judge Owen Panner.
Hammer qualified for the mandatory 35-year minimum plus two extra years in part because he was a registered sex offender convicted of molesting two young girls in California in separate cases two decades ago, court records show.
Hammer could have qualified for the lifetime sentence, but prosecutors chose not to pursue that option as part of the plea deal, court papers state.
Hammer was "grooming" the victim, who was known to him, to serve as a long-term sex object for himself and others who used the Internet to share photos and stories of their abuses that prosecutors believe would have continued unchecked had not an FBI child-pornography case unearthed Hammer's deeds, court papers state.
"Had (Hammer) not been apprehended, he would have continued to subject the child to a devastating lifetime of sexual abuse, documented with photos and shared with others," states a government sentencing memorandum detailing Hammer's predatory patterns and email discussions with other sex predators about similar behavior.
The sentencing memorandum states that Hammer's cellphone and email accounts revealed more than 5,000 images and 199 videos of child exploitation, including 70 different images of the victim.
Hammer sent at least 54 images of his sexual abuse to 19 different people discussing ways to abuse children and encouraged others to abuse children. He also discussed future plans to share videos of his abuse and was lauded by one of his fellow predators as "a lucky man" to have access to the victim, the memorandum states.
Hammer pleaded guilty Monday to one count of using a minor to produce visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct. Prosecutors dropped three similar counts against Hammer as well as a charge of possession of child pornography for which he was indicted.
The abuse occurred between December 2012 and February 2013, court documents show.
The investigation began in February 2013 after an FBI task force told local detectives it was investigating suspected trading of explicit images over the Internet by a Southern Oregon man later identified as Hammer.
A subsequent search of Hammer's house in the 600 block of Brandi Way in Eagle Point led to the seizure of mountains of evidence of sexual exploitation of children, court records show.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470, or email at email@example.com.