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story.lead_photo.caption Richard Bartmann - Photo by Pulaski County sheriff's office

An 81-year-old Atkins man accused of soliciting child pornography from girls in the Philippines who hoped to receive money for food in return pleaded guilty Friday to a charge of receiving child pornography.

In exchange for his plea to the receiving charge, prosecutors dropped five other charges against Richard Bartmann. The other charges were three counts of attempted production of child pornography, another count of receiving child pornography and one count of possession with the intent to view child pornography.

Had Bartmann been convicted of the other charges, he would have faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison, but his plea agreement spares him from the 15-year minimum. It indicates that he will face five to 20 years in prison when sentenced May 24 by U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson.

Atkins, represented by Assistant Federal Public Defender Chris Tarver, remained seated at a courtroom table during his plea hearing so that he could stay hooked up to an earpiece. However, he frequently indicated he was still having trouble hearing.

"Have any threats been made against you to make you plead guilty?" Wilson asked during a set of routine questions asked at plea hearings.

"Who?" Bartmann replied.

At another point, Wilson asked, "Are you pleading guilty because you are in truth and in fact guilty?"

"Because what?" Bartmann replied.

The judge and Tarver repeated the questions until Bartmann indicated he understood and answered them.

Bartmann, sitting mostly in a crouched position with several thin strands of silver hair pulled back into a short ponytail, grumbled at the beginning of the hearing, indicating that he wasn't eager to plead guilty but felt he had no choice.

"I understand I have 15 mandatory, no matter what," he said, adding with a shrug, "I'm willing to go ahead."

But after Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Gordon read aloud parts of the plea agreement, including its stipulation that Bartmann wouldn't face the 15-year minimum, he asked for confirmation of what he thought Gordon had said. After Wilson confirmed the benefit Bartmann was receiving through the agreement, Bartmann indicated he was satisfied.

Gordon said that had the case gone to trial, testimony would be that federal agent Jay Sedgebeer received a tip April 13, 2016, from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children about a cyber tip it had received from Yahoo on Dec. 10, 2015.

The service reported an email that was sent March 9, 2015, from a yahoo.com email to Bartmann's email -- rabartmann@sbcglobal.net. All eight images attached were of a young girl, nude, in various poses on a bed.

Sedgebeer's affidavit said Yahoo provided Bartmann's home address in response to an administrative summons, and meanwhile, the agent learned that Bartmann was corresponding with an email address in Manila, Philippines.

"This is significant in that [Sedgebeer] has identified several international trips taken by Richard Bartmann. Specifically, numerous trips taken to Asia/Pacific Island destinations," the affidavit said.

A federal search warrant uncovered 20,000 chats and emails, many with sexually explicit content involving minors, in Bartmann's email and Messenger correspondence, Gordon said.

In an email dated Jan. 4, 2016, the Philippines correspondent wrote to Bartmann, "I waiting now. I sent you pics. ... I hope I can get pesi today honey. We don't have foods. So hungry."

Bartmann responded, in all capital letters, "OK, found pics. Ver nice except back view," and relayed instructions on how to re-pose and resend. The correspondent replied, "OK, I will take again tomorrow."

The affidavit shows that in another conversation, two girls corresponding together from the Philippines said they were 10 and 13 years old, and were keeping their activities "secret" from their mother. Bartmann assured them they weren't too young for him.

When agents with a warrant searched Bartmann's home Aug. 10, 2016, they seized several devices containing child pornography and documents detailing Bartmann's travels to Asia, according to the affidavit. It said Bartmann admitted to agents that he had solicited and received the images, and that he had even mailed digital cameras to "several minor females in the Philippines for them to take sexually explicit photographs to send back to him."

Sedgebeer wrote that Bartmann admitted he had traveled to the Philippines with the intention of engaging in sex acts with the girls. But it says that when asked how many underage girls he'd had sex with on those trips, he replied, "Not a one, much to my chagrin."

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Metro on 02/10/2018

Print Headline: Man, 81, takes child-porn deal; Girls solicited in Philippines

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