A Jacksonville man who was a member of the U.S. Air Force when arrested in late 2015 was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in prison for taking pornographic photographs of a 6-year-old girl and posting them online.
Cameron Dee Neal, 34, pleaded guilty May 19 to a charge of production of child pornography, admitting that over a six-month period, he took numerous images of the young girl while posing her in women's underwear, and then uploaded 75 of the images to the Internet, where undercover federal agents in Boston discovered them in December 2015.
Department of Homeland Security investigators in Boston analyzed the images -- which they said represented a new "series" of child pornography -- until they were able to match the background in one image to an openly available image of a Jacksonville dance studio, according to court documents.
The investigators contacted fellow agent Toby Rowe in Little Rock, who said he was able to obtain the girl's identity from representatives of the studio, where she had taken dance classes. He said a female investigator with the Arkansas State Police's Crimes Against Children Division then interviewed the child, who said Neal told her the photographs were their "secret."
Neal was indicted Jan. 5, 2016, by a federal grand jury in Little Rock on charges of producing and distributing child pornography. He was eventually discharged from the Air Force.
On Thursday, he stood before U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr., acknowledging that he knew he had a serious problem before he was arrested and saying he was grateful for the help he has since received.
"I know that what I've done is a great crime," Neal said. "I wanted to seek out treatment before it got to this point. I did not like what I was doing. I did not like what I was becoming. ... I've wanted help for a long time."
Neal told the judge that he was introduced to pornography at "an extremely young age" and still struggles to overcome his addiction.
"I don't want to be this person. I want recovery," he said, standing beside defense attorney Brannon Sloan. "I hate myself for what I've done."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristin Bryant asked for a sentence at the top of the penalty range recommended by federal sentencing guidelines -- 210 months, or 17 years and six months, to 262 months, or 21 years and 10 months. Federal statutes required a sentence of between 15 and 30 years in prison.
Bryant argued that the crime was carried out repeatedly over six months and that Neal took the photographs for the sexual gratification of himself and others who aren't known and who will continue to have access to them, since they remain irretrievably on the Internet.
"Knowing it's out there is heartbreaking," Bryant said.
Sloan sought a sentence lower than the recommended range, pointing out that Neal has attended a number of rehabilitation services and "is to prepared to address a real problem he has." Sloan also said Neal hopes to serve his time in a federal penitentiary where sex offender treatment is available, which Marshall said he will recommend to the Bureau of Prisons.
Marshall took a brief recess before announcing that he had considered the seriousness of the crime and its particulars, as well as Neal's recognition of his problem, and what the judge believed to be "genuine remorse," in settling on a sentence in the middle of the guideline range.
The judge also ordered Neal to pay about $19,000 to the girl's mother to cover expenses stemming from the abuse and ordered Neal to remain under the supervision of U.S. probation officers for 10 years after his release from prison.
Marshall imposed numerous conditions that Neal must abide by once he is released, or face a possible return to prison. They include restrictions on Internet use and staying away from children, except his own biological children, as well as areas where children congregate.
Metro on 10/13/2017
Print Headline: Jacksonville man gets 20 years for taking, posting porn photos of girl, 6