Ratcliff sentenced to 42 months on child porn charges
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A former Wheaton College professor whose computers, prosecutors said, were "virtually dripping with child porn" files, was sentenced Tuesday to 42 months in prison.
Donald Ratcliff, 62, was charged in March 2012 after Carol Stream police found more than 500 images of child pornography on at least three of his seven home computers and three DVDs containing videos, authorities said.
He pleaded guilty to the aggravated child pornography charge last August in exchange for prosecutors dismissing six additional counts carrying a maximum prison term of 49 years because of consecutive sentencing laws for some child pornography offenses.
Assistant State's Attorney Louisa Nuckolls called Ratcliff a manipulative and deceptive person with an unhealthy fixation on young girls.
"(Ratcliff) spent an obsessively, disturbingly amount of time looking for child pornography," Nuckolls said.
DuPage County Judge John Kinsella, who viewed a segment of a video prosecutors said was on one of Ratcliff's computers, called the material "as bad as one can imagine."
Kinsella said he carefully weighed the importance of Ratcliff getting appropriate sex offender treatment versus the need to incarcerate Ratcliff for a "horrific crime."
"Some person took it upon themselves to record the rape and molestation of a child and we need to remember that a real, live human being had to experience that," Kinsella said. "The fact that this defendant had the file to vicariously experience the rape of that child points to a very dangerous tendency."
Ratcliff's attorney, Brian Telander, called his offenses disgusting but said it was important for Kinsella to consider that Ratcliff, who was diagnosed with pedophilia, was never accused of or proven to have molested any children or participated in any films or photos.
"It's disgusting and it's wrong but this is stuff (Ratcliff) watched in the privacy of his home over a two- or three-month period. It's a sick compulsion as a result of a mental disease," Telander said. "He's not at the park looking at little kids."
Ratcliff, when given a chance to speak, read a portion of a letter he wrote to Kinsella. Through treatment, he said he is "changing into a better person."
"I am a fallen man who was given a great opportunity and squandered it. My guilt is almost unbearable" Ratcliff said. "I am now alert for the potential of compromise and I am vigilant not to repeat these things in the future."
Ratcliff was fired from his job and divorced by his wife shortly after his arrest. Since 2006, he had been a professor of Christian education at the college.
With good behavior, Ratcliff will actually serve half of the 42-month sentence with credit for the 34 days he spent in DuPage County jail after his arrest. He also will be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, face the rest of his life under sex offender probation and pay a $1,000 fine.
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