Friday, June 13, 2003

Kiddie porn

A crime beyond words


This is an unlikely place to admit it, but sometimes, words fail. They cannot capture a perfect day in June, the perfume of fresh-cut grass or the pure joy of a child's smile.

And words fail utterly at describing raw evil. For that, you need pictures. Like the kind that Michael Cooper allegedly kept hidden away in his laptop computer.

Police said Cooper had 2,000 photographs of terrible crimes in progress: photos of children being sexually abused.

Possession of such kiddie porn is a crime, but it's also a bridge. It links the child molesters who make the pictures to the crimes by porn addicts who often act out their sick fantasies.

Cooper, a trucker from Elizabethtown, Ky., was caught by an alert mom who lives near Akron.

Mom's intuition

The mother, who did not want her name used, said she met Cooper in a computer chat room. "I go in to scope things out and keep an eye peeled for things that don't look right," she said.

Cooper asked about kids, "and that's when my intuition kicked in," she said. In direct e-mail, he asked her about meeting kids for sex in a Monroe motel, she said, and she called the FBI, which steered her to local police.

"I started baiting him," she said. "I asked if he wanted male or female, and he said hd didn't care. I asked him about age, and he said any age."

"The sad, sick thing is there's people who do that," said the mom, who has reported other cases to the FBI. "Some do it for money, and some do it just for the sick thrill. It's very sad, very disgusting and just makes your heart sick."

Cooper's online name was "iwanttobeadad." When police busted him at the Super 8 Motel off I-75, they said they found the kiddie porn in his laptop.

'Terribly disgusting'

Warren County Prosecutor Rachel Hutzel has been putting away crooks and creeps for 10 years. "I've seen a fair number of these pictures, but these are the worst I've seen," she said.

Victim Witness Advocacy Supervisor Keri Fenn said the case is "not unusual, just terribly disgusting."

The porn police said they found on Cooper's laptop featured babies and dozens of children up to early teens. "In this case, I'd say all of the children appear to be under (legal) age," Hutzel said.

Anyone lucky enough to never see it may have a hard time trying to imagine the horror, pain and humiliation reflected in the blank, bruised eyes of tortured children.

Porn peddlers who get filthy rich on it often get away with the myth that "it's a victimless crime."

Hutzel said the Cooper case "is the perfect answer to that claim. If it's a victimless crime, he wouldn't have gone on to importune children."

She's asking for the maximum penalty on two counts of importuning and 200 counts of pandering obscenity with a minor and carrying it across state lines. Fenn hopes detectives might find out where the pictures came from so they can rescue victims.

If convicted, Cooper faces up to eight years.

The sentence for the kids in those photos is life in a place that words can't describe.

E-mail or call 768-8301.

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