Crime

Child pornographer exploited Tri-Cities teens for sex. The judge showed no mercy

A 34-year-old man with a “ravenous” appetite for child pornography was sentenced this week to 25 years in federal prison.

A federal prosecutor said the amount of time Ryan W. Alexander spends behind bars needs to be high because he just didn’t take a hint the first, or even the second, time that he was punished for his egregious conduct.

Alexander fled Oregon in 2016 after investigators found hundreds of sexually explicit pictures and videos on his electronic devices. But he didn’t leave behind his criminal ways when he moved to Washington state, Assistant U.S. Attorney David M. Herzog said Thursday.

Alexander knew he was under investigation again in 2017 when detectives searched his Kennewick house. Yet after that search, he continued to add more child pornography to his Dropbox account.

Some of those sexual images involved violence and sadomasochism involving toddlers, infants, grade-school kids and teens.

“How many times does Mr. Alexander need to be put on notice that what he is doing is wrong? ... Mr. Alexander is simply undeterrable,” Herzog told a federal judge. “People who view children as sexual objects, as Mr. Alexander does, need to know that law enforcement are looking for them.”

Soliciting images

Alexander would meet young teen boys through a social media app, then get them to help him sell drugs and engage in sexual acts.

He used a picture of one of his victims, age 14, to solicit nude and compromising photos of at least one other teen on the app, and would swap his child pornography online for other child pornography.

He also threatened the boys, some who were not “out” yet, that he would somehow go public with their sexual preferences.

He had at least 150 to 300 images of child pornography on his devices.

Alexander pleaded guilty in April 2018 to one count each of production and distribution of child pornography and attempted production.

Since then, he has twice tried to withdraw the plea in U.S. District Court. He recently testified that he was in extreme pain from ongoing kidney stone problems and only admitted to making child porn because he wanted to get medical care in a federal facility.

Judge Sal Mendoza Jr. denied that request.

‘Predator’

Federal prosecutors recommended the 25-year term.

“The defendant is a predator. ... He’s had a years-long, insatiable and continuing sexual interest in young boys and men,” said Herzog. “None of his victims can truly know whether he traded those images on the internet. ... They will never know whether somebody they come into contact with has seen those images of their abuse.”

The internet is unforgiving and the scope of Alexander’s child pornography conduct lasts forever, he said.

Defense attorney Adam Pechtel argued for 20 years, noting his client’s history of substance abuse with methamphetamine and cocaine.

“Production and distribution of child pornography are not inherently contact offenses,” said Pechtel.

In his statement to the judge, Alexander said he was trying to reach a lawyer who could arrange for him to talk with police about child pornography he’d found uploaded.

He blamed the case on the “overactive imagination” of a prosecutor who tried to make him out as “the biggest monster this world has ever seen,” and said his only hope is to prevent another kid from being victimized.

‘Manipulative and dangerous’

Judge Mendoza said it was clear Alexander preyed on children — and he knew they were children, and not adults.

“The conduct that you engaged in as described is the conduct of a monster. I’m not saying you’re a monster, the conduct that you engaged in was horrendous,” he said. “And I’m not going to go through point by point all the different things that you did.”

Mendoza noted that Alexander is now denying everything he did with those boys in 2016 and early 2017, which is inconsistent with his guilty plea and taking responsibility.

He called his conduct egregious, manipulative and dangerous.

“The court must impose a sentence that is just, and will provide adequate deterrence to both the defendant and to others, that it is not OK to possess images of children being raped,” said Mendoza. “And all I heard today from you was denial, minimization, no remorse. No remorse, Mr. Alexander.”

Alexander tried to interrupt the judge to say something, but Mendoza tersely replied, “No. No.”

The judge told Alexander he will have 25 years to reflect on what he’s done and recognize that his conduct was both wrong and criminal. The prison term will be followed by a lifetime of federal supervision.

Even though Alexander accepted a plea agreement and waived his right to appeal, he asked the judge to give him permission to challenge its validity and appoint him an attorney. Mendoza denied the request.

Alexander’s plea deal included dropping child sex abuse charges in Oregon. Other child pornography charges in Benton County were dismissed two years ago but he’s still charged with possessing meth.

Two other Tri-Cities men, Beau T. Upton and Zayne K. Barbre, were connected to Alexander’s child exploitation case.

Upton was indicted in October 2017 for production of child pornography. That federal case has since been inactive but he is charged in Superior Court with two counts of third-degree rape of a child.

By the time Upton goes to trial as scheduled in Benton County in February 2020, he will have been in jail on that case for nearly three years. His bail is $10,000, and he also has a U.S. Marshal’s hold.

Barbre pleaded guilty in federal court to five felonies involving four victims between the ages of 14 and 17.

Barbre is serving a 28-year sentence at the federal correctional institution in Sheridan, Ore.

Kristin M. Kraemer covers the judicial system and crime issues for the Tri-City Herald. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years in Washington and California.
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