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Indiana sinks to new porn low

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FBI Agent Robert Holley, Assistant U.S. - Attorney Brant Cook, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler and Assistant - U.S. Attorney Steve DeBrota at a news conference announcing the successful - conclusion of Operation Bulldog. - REBECCA TOWNSEND
  • Rebecca Townsend
  • FBI Agent Robert Holley, Assistant U.S.Attorney Brant Cook, First Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler and AssistantU.S. Attorney Steve DeBrota at a news conference announcing the successfulconclusion of Operation Bulldog.


When Jeremy LaBrec pleaded guilty in early June to possessing and distributing sexually explicit images of Hoosier children under 4 years old, it concluded a nearly two-year, multi-jurisdictional investigation known as Operation Bulldog.

The cases prosecuted throughout the course of Bulldog marked a new low in child pornography — the discovery of a group of nepiophiles, people sexually attracted to infants and toddlers, who recorded and shared videos and still images of group members physically raping and molesting children as young as 2 months old.

"I've prosecuted these cases for 20 years and we just never saw that before," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve DeBrota, who specializes in cutting-edge computer forensic response tactics, during a news conference announcing guilty pleas entered by nine people targeted through Operation Bulldog.

The principal offender and the most prolific contributor to the nepiophiles' file-sharing arrangement, David Bostic, a Bloomington, Ind., resident, who would abuse children entrusted to him for babysitting, received a 315-year sentence.

Bostic also served as the hub through which law enforcement was able to ferret out several other offenders engaged in what DeBrota termed "a directed, awful sexual fantasy" and "existentially bad."

"Internationally and nationally we have examples of offenders who were planning on having children for the purpose of having a class of victims," DeBrota said. "For example, one of the offenders of this group sent an ultrasound image of a child getting ready to be born that they were planning on victimizing after that."

That case was stopped before abuse could occur, as was another planned abuse in Europe, he added.

The ultrasound case, though, is part of a separate and ongoing investigation, so officials would share no further details.

"I applaud the work of these investigators and prosecutors, who, in this instance, were able to take a search warrant in Bloomington and use it to bring down a monstrous criminal organization that reached across the country and into at least a half dozen others," First Assistant U.S. Attorney Josh Minkler said when announcing the operation's successful conclusion.

All together, the Indiana-based prosecution extracted guilty pleas from nine people arrested around the U.S. Officials are pursuing additional prosecutions in the U.S. and abroad.

Indiana law enforcement, led by experts with the Indiana State Police and Purdue University along with DeBrota, are credited with developing the "fast, flexible and adaptive" forensic response model credited with capturing so many offenders in an exceptionally rapid and fluid process.

The response technique allowed investigators to accompany police issuing Bostic's search warrant and identify and review the contents of his computer in real time.

"In a matter of minutes we were able to find he was in connection with a group of people who were nepiophiles," DeBrota said. "In most other places in the U.S. that wouldn't have been possible. ... Other places can take months and years for a forensic exam; (an investigator) wouldn't be able to view collection till much later."

Officials said more than two dozen children had been rescued as a result of the operation; investigators continue to work on identifying more. Officials also acknowledged that the horrific crimes discovered can never be undone, but expressed the hope that the convictions would offer some degree of solace.

The depth of the group's depravity, though, demands continued attention to the challenges that continue to dog child pornography investigations.

"We're not where we need to be internationally or in the U.S. on website data retention," DeBrota said. "The (Obama) administration proposed amendments: Congress did not pass them. The reality of the fact is: Data retention is the No. 1 problem in catching online child offenders. Nothing is more frustrating to me than being able to identify an offender but for the fact that the provider no longer has the records or never kept them in first place. They should take more responsibility for the kids we don't rescue."

Operation Bulldog represented a cooperative effort between the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Brownsburg and Kokomo police departments, the Indiana State Police and the U.S. Department of Justice.

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