A convicted sex offender caught with 61,000 images of child pornography on his home computer told a federal judge Tuesday he didn’t think it was wrong to download what is freely available on the internet.
Dan R. Dickey, 68, of Kennewick, said his criminal actions in the past decade have overshadowed all the good he did serving his country and his community for the first 60 years.
Dickey received a negotiated five-year sentence in federal prison.
He apologized for the “pain and anguish” he caused a Tri-City teen and other child porn victims, and claimed it was not done for sexual purposes.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Tri-City Herald
“I’m truly, truly sorry for everything that I have done to create this problem,” Dickey said in U.S. District Court in Richland. “I assumed that I wasn’t doing anything wrong, just downloading those photographs off the internet because they were just free floating.”
But the teen girl who was the focus of 9,000 of those sexually explicit photos, along with hundreds of secretly recorded videos, characterized Dickey’s interest in her as “pedophile lust.”
The girl told the judge she agreed to the sentence because “it’s like the road to victory,” allowing her to get some sort of closure with the case finally resolved and Dickey going to prison.
“I’m constantly struggling with pure hatred with anyone and constantly thinking everyone is out to get me,” she said during the 1 1/2-hour hearing. “I live my life with a ghost of emptiness on top of severe depression. I have a hole in my soul of the aching pain this event has caused me.”
Senior Judge Ed Shea commended the teen for helping him understand her pain and suffering, saying it’s not often there is a victim in court to bring to life the horrors of child pornography.
This is Dickey’s second criminal case involving the same victim.
In 2013, he pleaded guilty in Benton County Superior Court to voyeurism and second-degree possession of depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct, and received a special sentence with six months in jail and three years of sex offender treatment.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation then stepped in for the thousands of downloads, and in July 2014 a federal grand jury returned an indictment against Dickey for attempted production of child pornography and receipt of child pornography. The extensive collection included kids in bondage and prepubescent girls.
Shea accepted Dickey’s guilty plea in February to one count of receipt of child pornography. The attempted production charge was dismissed as part of the plea.
On Tuesday, the judge questioned why he should go along with the agreed recommendation when the standard range for Dickey’s crime is 10 years and one month to 12 years and seven months.
If Shea ordered more than five years, Dickey and defense attorney Sam Swanberg could have withdrawn the plea agreement.
What was different in Dickey’s case from other child porn cases is that he not only downloaded horrifying images, but he took it to another level and produced his own child porn by installing a hidden camera in his home’s bathroom and saving those pictures and videos to watch again, Shea said.
Dickey’s actions — which started in 2005 and went on until he was discovered in November 2012 — were a “complete and utter breach of trust,” Shea said.
Shea took note of the defense argument that Dickey had served in the Army and the California National Guard for 16 years, been a Shriner and a Mason, founded and served as president of the Kennewick Police Department Foundation, and worked with other charitable causes in the Tri-Cities.
Dickey had been an assistant broker and Realtor for 20 years, and before that was a supervisor at Iowa Beef.
However, Shea said it is not uncommon for otherwise good citizens to commit inexplicable acts.
“This is such a case. A man who is otherwise law-abiding has a particular bent that involves child pornography, but more than that it involves videotaping (a girl) in a way that involves a breach and caused her not to trust authority figures at any point,” Shea said.
The result is that loss of innocence and trust in loving relationships because the girl believed that someone older should have known better, he said.
The teen told the court that when she learned Dickey had videotaped her in what should have been a private setting, it led to feelings of hopelessness and betrayal, a desire to always keep her phone camera covered and anxiety about staying in other homes.
She has recurring nightmares which result in barely any sleep, and unfortunately this nightmare was a reality. The girl constantly is looking over her shoulder wondering where the next camera will be, and said for all that Dickey has caused he deserves to be placed in a prison’s general population and not protective custody.
“I have spent many of my days living for the day where I will see justice in this case,” she said.
Swanberg claimed his client had no intention of downloading that many child porn pictures and did not view all of them.
“This conduct was an aberration, if anything. This was not Dan Dickey,” Swanberg said. “That Dan Dickey is a loving man, likes his fellow man and wants to serve us. He got in trouble after age 60.”
The lawyer claimed his client was going through depression and a lack of finding purpose in life, and when he “dabbled” in child porn it struck a chord.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie J. Lister argued that Dickey actively searched for the pictures, downloaded them and saved them to his computer and flash drives. And he added fuel to the fire of people who produce child porn by demanding more, she said.
“Clearly as a result of his actions there are a number of victims in this case,” Lister said. “These kinds of offenses are tragic and will haunt these kids for the rest of their lives.”
She added that it is important to send the community a message that regardless of whether you’re a person with a commendable resume of volunteer and service work, “if you sexually exploit a child there will be consequences,” and that consequence is prison.
Shea said while the five-year term is not technically a punishment, it is a restriction on Dickey’s lifestyle and freedom. He thinks this case deserves a great deal more time behind bars, and he was going along with the recommendation “only because the victim agreed to it.”
Dickey was not taken into custody Tuesday because Shea granted a request to allow him to report on his own to the Bureau of Prisons. Once Dickey has served his time, he will be on supervised release for 20 years and will be a registered sex offender.
He already has paid his $5,500 restitution. The victim had said she did not want his money, but Lister and the victim-witness coordinator encouraged her to receive at least some assistance for her expenses.
Dickey was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine, which Swanberg said his client can do within 30 days. He also had to forfeit two computers and two thumb drives that were seized as part of the investigation.