Los Angeles, CA 92882
February 7, 20xx
The Honorable Judge Daniel Anderson
United States District Court Judge
Central District of California
411 West Fourth Street
Santa Ana, CA 92701
Regarding: USA—v—Client Name
Dear Judge Anderson:
I’m sickened with shame and humiliation at my behavior. For longer than three years my conscience has tormented me. The reality that I played a role in victimizing children leaves me sick to my stomach. By searching for illicit images on the Internet and storing those pictures on my computer, I contributed to a wicked industry that depicted children in lewd acts. I regret my behavior and I will spend the remainder of my life working to atone.
There isn’t anything I can say or do to excuse my role in the offense. Please don’t take this letter as some type of ploy to minimize my responsibility. In no way will this letter of remorse shift blame that rests solely on my shoulders. It’s clear that I’ve broken the law, that I’ve pleaded guilty, and that I’ve accepted responsibility. Still, I want you and others who judge me to have more insight into who I am as a human being and how I got to this stage.
I’ve asked Diane to help me understand the procedures ahead now that I’ve pleaded guilty. As I understood her, a probation officer will write a report for you to consider, then the sentencing hearing will follow. I know that Diane will submit legal papers and make a presentation on my behalf. Although I may not have the confidence to verbalize the depth of my remorse, I wanted to take the time to write this story of my life for all who are about to judge me, including the probation officer, this court, and anyone else who will be responsible for carrying out the sentence you deem appropriate in my case.
When deliberating over the appropriate sentence, Your Honor, please take the totality of my life into consideration. Although I’ve pleaded guilty to a deplorable crime, this type of behavior has not been characteristic of my six decades of life. The crime was an aberration, committed during a particularly difficult period in my disappointing and troubled life.
Certainly, I know that life’s hardships do not excuse my behavior. Yet by writing this narrative, I’m hopeful that you will have a more complete picture of who I am and what I’ve stood for as a human being. You’ll see that I have a long history of standing for good and decency in society. Some traumatic events that I’ll describe below sunk me into despondency that led to some extremely poor decisions on my part. But on the whole, I hope that you’ll see my commitment to living as a good citizen, a contributing member of society.
Although a severe sanction likely follows, deep introspection and reflections have already taught me a great deal. I’ve learned from this experience. I want you to know the steps I’ve taken and that I continue taking to ensure I’ll never violate a law again. Let me begin with my background.
I was born into difficult circumstances on December 2, 1954. Both of my parents, now deceased, were chronic alcoholics. They had a turbulent marriage with countless violent episodes. Although my father was skilled as a heavy equipment operator, frequent unemployment coupled with my parents’ alcoholism resulted in our family being very poor. We moved from place to place each year, frequently sharing a house with extended family. As a child, I longed for the stability that I saw in others.
I was the middle child of five, with two brothers and two younger sisters. All of us bore the brunt of violent, alcohol-fueled outbursts in our home. I’m still traumatized with visions of my father beating my mother, pulling her around by her hair. I have memories of my mother drawing blood from my father’s face while she screamed about wanting to scratch his eyes out.
By age 17, I’d had enough. Wanting to get away, I quit school to join the Army. I wanted something better for my life, some type of stability, and I also wanted to serve our country. By joining the Army I hoped to learn a trade or vocation while simultaneously preparing for jobs that would provide a sustainable life. After completing Basic Training in Fort Leonard, Missouri, I transferred to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, for Advanced Individual Training.
With an interest and aptitude for mechanics, I signed up for artillery training. By learning to work on medium- and heavy-weight cannons, I expected that I’d develop mechanical skills that would translate into steady employment. With my troubled youth, I always wanted a good job, a steady paycheck, a family, and a life without complications.
The highlight of my time in the Army was when the head of the local Central Intelligence Division (CID) selected me to participate in an advance team to detect nuclear weapons. I was one of 24 people selected out of approximately 30,000 people who were stationed on the Nuremberg base. To participate, the Army issued me a top-level security clearance so that I could work with our team. When our superiors suspected the possibility of terrorist threats, our team would inspect NATO sites for chemical, biological, nuclear, or other weapons of mass destruction. Whenever terrorist threats were present, we would perform physical inspections and then secure the area by reclaiming any explosive devices.
Unfortunately, my tour of duty in the military is not without flaws. I’d like to explain. As expressed above, both of my parents were severe alcoholics. When my mother was ready to give birth to my baby sister, I received permission for an emergency leave. When I arrived, I saw that neither of my parents were capable of staying away from alcohol to care for my baby sister. I asked the Red Cross to intervene and obtain permission from the Army to extend my leave. My understanding was that the Red Cross had agreed to take care of it so that I could care for my infant sister until my parents could recuperate. My baby sister spent the first two weeks of her life sleeping on my chest. When I returned to the Army, however, I learned that permission had not been granted. I was disciplined for being Absent Without Leave. The Army issued a minor sanction, but did not take my rank or pay. I’m embarrassed for the blemish on my record, as it was my intention to serve our military with honor.
At 21, I received an invitation from the Navy to extend my tour as an Ensign, a commissioned officer. Yet recognizing responsibilities at home, I chose to return to California and resume my life as a civilian. The Army granted an honorable discharge.
I did not adjust easily because I wasn’t able to reconnect with my father. Feeling lonely, I began using the CB radio to interact with others. I never felt comfortable in crowds or with groups of people and the anonymity of the CB brought some comfort. I could just talk, without having to feel insecure about the troubles from my youth or my past.
While on the CB, I found a friend in Barta Marguerite Miller. I was only 21 and she was 47, but somehow the pain we experienced connected us. Her husband had passed away three months previously. She had two daughters that were about my age. Despite the 26 years that separated Barta and me, we fell in love through our conversations over the CB and we decided to marry.
In the beginning, we seemed to have a happy family. I found steady employment working in factory jobs that allowed me to use the mechanical skills I’d developed in the military. The jobs paid about $10 per hour, which I considered a good wage during the mid-1970s economy. I was able to pay the mortgage on our property and support our family. The problem was that my wages didn’t increase over time.
After more than 10 years with one company, I was still earning wages in the $10 per hour range. In search of higher earnings, I transitioned to McDonnell Douglas. By 2003, after 19 years on the job, I was earning $24.50 per hour. But in the spring of that year, corporate restructuring resulted in my being laid off. With my unemployment, my life started to fall into a tailspin.
Barta and I were married for 27 years. She was not a faithful wife. From the start of our marriage, her infidelity humiliated me and brought pain. Yet the thought of living alone frightened me. Being a man who believed that you got married for better or for worse, I made a commitment to stick it out. While Barta found other men to comfort her during our marriage, I created my own source of comfort by working on our home, caring for her daughter’s children, and also by caring for stray cats.
My and I had been doing animal rescue for years. The cats were living in abandoned properties. We took them into our home and cared for them. Using resources from earnings, we had a vet make sure they were healthy and spaded. Then we prepared the cats for adoption with loving families. We placed dozens of cats with families as a labor of love, trying our best to protect our neighborhood and the cats as well. Some of the best times I had was knowing that the cats would be loved and cared for as indoor cats. Yet at the same time, it was painfully emotional for me to see the cats go. We were always caring for dozens of cats at a time.
After I lost my job at McDonnell Douglas, however, Barta chose to abandon me. When she chose to leave, I had no choice but to care for the abandoned cats alone. They became my family, my source of comfort during that time of distress.
Our home in Westminster was in an area that had appreciated well. After McDonnell Douglas put me out of work, I expected that I’d be able to live off the equity we had accumulated in the house. Instead, when Barta abandoned me she launched an aggressive campaign to evict our cats and me. With my commitment to animal rescue, I couldn’t just let them go. Repeatedly, I tried to reconcile with her, telling her that I would do anything if she would stay with me. By then, Barta’s daughter had set her up with another young man. She filed a restraining order against me so that I could never go near her, her children, or our grandchildren again.
The disruption of my life led to a long and troubled decade. I was left without much in the way of resources and supported myself through day-labor jobs, living a transient life in motels and short-term rentals. I lived from paycheck-to-paycheck, with only my cats to comfort me.
Violating The Restraining Order:
In 2005, I finally secured a good job. Lockheed Martin hired me to work at a plant in Palmdale. I sensed that I was about to get my life back in order. At the time I was living in my vehicle, doing the best that I could. Then, after only a month on the job, Barta filed for bankruptcy. I didn’t understand how she could’ve been so reckless with resources, as she had substantial equity in the house that we’d had for decades. Her bankruptcy derailed my life once again. My job at Lockheed Martin required a security clearance which I could not get if a background check revealed financial instability. As a consequence of Barta’s bankruptcy, my supervisor informed me that I could either resign from the job, or he would be forced to terminate me. With the record of financial stability, I could not qualify for the security clearance necessary to keep employment.
When I lost the job, Your Honor, I saw everything unraveling. I was 51 and without anything. Since she evicted me from our house, I was living without stability and finding it extremely difficult to gain any traction. Just when I was settling into a path that would bring a measure of normalcy to my life, I lost the Lockheed Martin job.
In a fit of anger, I drove to Barta’s house and tried to confront her. I wanted answers from her and I wanted her to know how her bankruptcy filing influenced my prospects for building a better life. In light of the restraining order, approaching her was not a good decision. Authorities intervened. By the time judicial proceedings concluded, a local judge sanctioned me to serve five weekends in a work-release facility and a period of time on probation.
After I lost my job at Lockheed Martin, I supported myself doing day-labor jobs, earning about $8 per hour. I was able to rent a small house and bring my cats with me. I frequently went to sleep hungry, as I barely had sufficient resources to feed both the cats and me—and I derived so much comfort from the cats that I ensured that they always had food and water. Animal rescue brought meaning and relevance to my life.
Eviction and Killing the Cats:
By the time the judicial process unfolded and I was serving my sanction in the work-release program, I’d begun to get my life together again. I’d work a full week, then report to the work-release program after work on Friday. I’d perform my labor obligation for the county on Saturday and Sunday, then return to my job on Monday. While I was away, I’d make sure to leave sufficient food and water for my cats.
When I returned from work on Monday after my final weekend in the work-release program, I saw that my house had been broken into. Turns out that someone had called the humane society and reported me for violating some type of ordinance that prevented me from caring, mistaking my passion for animal rescue as a violation of some type of municipal code. The cats and kittens had become a part of my family. Yet the humane society rounded them up. Making matters worse, when the landlord learned of all the cats I was caring for, he evicted me. Again, I was homeless, without the animals that had given my only source of comfort.
I pleaded with the humane society to return my cats, pledging that I would find a way to care for them as I always had. Those cats made me feel as if I had a family. Yet the humane society refused to work with me, preferring instead to euthanize the animals. I was crushed, heartbroken and helpless. When the person from the humane society cited policies and intentions of killing the cats, I felt as if he was ripping my life apart. I lost my sense of balance, my purpose in life. I’d already lost the love of my life, my family, and the grandchildren that I loved as if they were my own children. I had lost my home, my job. The stability and life I always wanted to build was gone. Then a heartless person in the Humane Society told me he was going to kill my cats, exterminating their lives and the only purpose I felt in life. Without being able to care for needy animals, I began losing my will to live.
After being evicted, I purchased a van, structured a rental agreement with an RV park, and I began living like a hermit. By 2012 I was supporting myself through any type of job I could find. After work, I would retreat to my van and cope with my misery. Searching the Internet became a way to take my mind off the many disappointments I suffered.
Through Internet searches, I’m ashamed to admit that I developed an unhealthy fascination with pornography. I started downloading images of women from a shared website. Then, the more images I downloaded, the more images came up. I saw images of children who were engaged in lewd acts. I’m embarrassed and ashamed to admit that I also downloaded those files.
Initially, I didn’t grasp the connection between downloading images and victimizing children. Instead of thinking of those children, I selfishly looked for ways to cope with the pain associated with losing my family. After a few months, I grew disgusted with myself for what I’d been doing and made efforts to erase the images from my computer. I failed. In the spring of 2012, authorities raided the RV Park where I was living and confiscated all of the computer equipment I had in my possession. Those computers still had the images in storage.
Since my problems with the judicial system began, I’ve learned a lot more about the relationship between images and victimization. Predators manipulate children into the lewd acts because a market exists for the images they produce. If people didn’t download and transfer the images, predators would not exploit children. I’m ashamed and embarrassed to have played a role in this offense.
On the advice of counsel, I began seeing therapists at my own expense. Although I looked at the images, I never had any intention of interacting with children. Still, I never should’ve viewed or downloaded the images. Since I didn’t feel compelled to continue looking at those lewd images, or any type of pornography, I thought that I was going to be okay. Once I started to undergo treatment, I learned a great deal about the crime I committed and the influences that led me into this problem.
For the past several months I’ve been working with Dr. Benjamin Stepanoff and others on his team. By visiting with the therapy team on a weekly basis, I’ve learned about the stressors that influenced my behavior. I’ve also learned about the importance of therapy. Regardless of where I am, I intend to continue that therapy. Obviously, I’d like to continue my therapy while I served my sanction in some form of community-based setting. But if prison is in my future, it’s my hope that I will transfer to Seagoville, in Texas. Through research I’ve done, I’ve learned Seagoville has a well-regarded treatment program that would benefit my adjustment. I know that I’ve done wrong. Through therapy, I’m learning healthier ways to cope with the stress I endured from losing my family.
Your Honor, the past 12 years of my life have brought me a cascading series of problems. I did not cope with those losses well. There is no excuse for the role that I played in victimizing those children. I’m tormented with grief whenever I think about the connection I had to the exploitation of children. If I could erase those bad decisions from my past I would do so. Unfortunately, as far as I know, the best way that I can demonstrate remorse is to continue participating in therapy. By reducing the stressors in my life, I will be more capable of living as a law-abiding and contributing citizen.
As a consequence of the therapy that I’ve received, I’ve been able to regroup. For longer than a year I’ve been working full time in a factory and I’m earning approximately $30 per hour. I’ve had my own apartment since last October and I’m living a responsible life. Instead of focusing on the pain of my past, I’m focusing on the good that I can do—like offering financial support to my sister so that she can ease burdens on her grandchildren. The trauma that sent me into a tailspin is now a part of my distant past and I’m coping with the pain in responsible ways.
Although I understand that you will determine an appropriate sanction, Your Honor, it’s my sincere hope that you will take my entire life into consideration. I did not cope with stress well in the past. Yet in learning more about this crime, and through my participation in therapy, I will live the remainder of my life as a good and honorable citizen. I implore you to exercise mercy when imposing your sentence.