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Medford man jailed for computer child abuse

A Medford man was sentenced Friday in Jackson County Circuit Court to 41 months in prison for computer sex crimes against children.

Michael Anthony White, 51, was found guilty on 20 counts of encouraging child abuse Wednesday after a bench trial before Judge Benjamin Bloom. Bloom ruled White was guilty of 10 counts of encouraging child sex abuse in the first degree, and an additional 10 counts in the second degree. White was given a 41-month sentence. He must register as a sex offender, pay a $500 fine and a yet-to-be-determined amount of restitution to the child victims.

"We need to send a message that this behavior is more than a mistake," said Bloom.

Encouraging child sex abuse entails the sharing and viewing of videos and still images of minors engaged in sexually explicit acts. Several of the images White downloaded during a six-month period from February to August in 2011 depicted toddlers being sexually abused with animals and/or adults, said Deputy District Attorney Adam Peterson.

Bloom called the images White had downloaded "heinous" and "disturbing."

Peterson agreed, characterizing the images as "vile" and calling White's behavior "reprehensible."

"This will haunt these victims for the rest of their lives," Peterson said.

The prosecutor was seeking a 12-year-sentence. White was first suspected of the crimes in January 2011 during an undercover investigation by the Southern Oregon High-Tech Crimes Task Force. During the investigation, the task force sought out individuals in Southern Oregon thought to be involved in the sexual exploitation of children. Investigators determined that White's home was the source of duplication and distribution of digital images and videos of prepubescent children engaged in sexual activity.

In August 2011, task force members served a search warrant at White's residence. White was interviewed, and multiple items of digital evidence were seized for analysis.

White said Friday that he did not know what made him download the images.

"I messed up. I don't know what the heck happened. And I'm sorry," White said, adding he had "helped raise a 15-year-old daughter."

White's defense attorney, Larry Parker, said his client "got caught up in the Internet age" and is unfairly being made an example. Parker expressed outrage that Peterson had pressed for a dozen years prison time.

"We don't give people who actually touch children that much time," Parker said.

Peterson said the prison time request was justified, but added he respected Bloom's sentence. Peterson praised the task force for the work they did during last year's sweep in which more than 70 pieces of digital evidence were seized, more than 20 investigations were conducted and several arrests were made.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a federal nonprofit agency, has received the images and located the victims, none of whom are from Southern Oregon, Peterson said.

Peterson has asked for an undetermined restitution amount should any of the victims wish to file suit for damages.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.