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Ashland man gets more than 5 years for child porn

A man arrested in Ashland will serve nearly six years in federal prison for possessing more than 15,000 child pornography images and engaging in an inappropriate online relationship with a 12-year-old girl.

Paul Michael Garcia, 43, was sentenced Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Medford to five years, 10 months in prison for his admitted role receiving and possessing child pornography between March 2019 and February 2020 — some of which the U.S. Attorney’s Office described as involving “graphic violent images involving children as young as toddlers.”

As terms of a plea agreement, Judge Ann Aiken ordered him to surrender to U.S. marshals to begin his sentence by Jan. 4, according to an email from U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Kevin Sonoff. She further ordered five years of supervised release once he’s out of prison.

Garcia pleaded guilty to the two child pornography charges April 25, court records show.

The investigation began in March 2019, when Yahoo alerted federal authorities that Garcia had uploaded 118 files depicting child sex abuse, according to a sentencing brief filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Judith Harper, who prosecuted the case.

FBI agents served a search warrant on Garcia’s Ashland apartment Feb. 18, 2020, and seized an Apple iPhone X, a thumb drive and two laptop computers.

The investigation turned up 33 images and seven videos on the phone, according to a sentencing brief filed by Harper Sept. 28 and an earlier news report, but Harper states that thousands more explicit files eventually were seized.

“In total, investigators found over 15,000 images of child pornography,” Harper states.

Police found explicit exchanges between Garcia and a female juvenile in the sixth grade.

The victim’s mother told federal investigators the girl once was a straight-A student but started exhibiting behavioral health changes. The girl was prescribed medication for anxiety and depression, and the family moved away for a fresh start, but the girl continued to struggle.

About the same time the mother was interviewed by law enforcement, the 12-year-old girl attempted suicide and was under suicide watch.

Investigators determined Garcia shared explicit videos from the sixth-grader to at least one other person using the social messaging app Kik.

Harper sought a sentence of 78 months in prison, and assistant federal public defender Brian Butler, who represented Garcia, sought a 60-month sentence, citing his client’s compliance with terms of his pretrial release and success in substance abuse and mental health treatment programs.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTwebeditor.