Should Navy vet get prison for 'staggering' child porn collection?

 
Updated 1/17/2012 11:56 AM
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  • Michael Jachim

    Michael Jachim

When police searched Michael Jachim's bedroom in March, they found a safe. Inside it was a cache of DVDs labeled "Twisted Sisters." They were not music videos.

On Tuesday, a DuPage County judge is scheduled to rule whether Jachim will go to prison for child pornography. Prosecutors said his DVD stash and computer equipment contained "thousands upon thousands" of images of children being molested and raped.

Jachim -- a decorated Navy veteran who told police he once worked at the Pentagon -- pleaded guilty in December to three counts of aggravated child pornography.

Judge John Kinsella can put him away for three to seven years, but Jachim's attorney says he will argue for probation.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whose office helped local law enforcement catch Jachim, said the 40-year-old Glendale Heights man is a perfect example of why authorities have pushed in recent years to strengthen sentencing parameters for the worst child pornography collectors.

"This isn't Playboy magazine. These are infants and toddlers being brutally raped," she recently told the Daily Herald.

Police raided Jachim's Gladstone Drive apartment on March 15. They said child porn had been made available for download from his computer 238 times since late 2009.

Inside, they found piles of DVDs, CDs and videotapes. Jachim told police he'd been archiving pornography for 15 years, according to an arrest report.

He confessed he was sexually attracted to girls 15 and 16 years old, the report says. But there was evidence he also used Internet file-sharing services to download pornography involving even younger children, including toddlers, police and prosecutors said.

Jachim told detectives he backed up his child porn collection on DVDs marked "Twisted Sisters" and hid them away inside a small safe. When confronted about the name, Jachim said it was "simply something he came up with to signify child pornography," according to the police report.

"A lot of these girls were 3 and 4 years old in bondage positions with their hands and feet tied," DuPage County prosecutor Helen Kapas said in court. "It's one of the worst child pornography cases we've worked on with the attorney general's office in terms of the quantity and content."

State's Attorney Robert Berlin called the collection "staggering" and said that by owning it, Jachim "victimized thousands of young children to satisfy his own sick desires."

The case comes amid recent efforts in the state legislature to beef up penalties for the most severe child pornography offenders.

In 2009, a new criminal statute -- aggravated child pornography -- extended possible prison terms to seven years from five for defendants who -- like Jachim -- are caught with pictures and videos of children younger than 13.

And last summer, Gov. Pat Quinn signed a law making consecutive sentences mandatory for people convicted of multiple counts of the aggravated charge. That means anyone charged and found guilty after August can receive up to seven years for each count rather than serve concurrent terms, though probation is still an option.

Madigan, whose office initiated the changes, said they allow prosecutors to focus on a limited number of the most egregious pictures and videos without having to exhibit and prove scores of similar images at trial in order to get an appropriate sentence.

"The thought that viewing child pornography is a victimless crime is absolutely untrue," Madigan said. "When you talk to the children and sometimes even the adults who have had these horrible crimes committed against them, they'll tell you that every time somebody looks at that image it's like the crime is taking place all over again. To me, probation doesn't do justice to the crimes that have been committed and the lives that have been ruined."

Technology has undoubtedly played a role in the prevalence of child pornography today. Each month in Illinois, roughly 8,000 computers are identified trading it online, according to the attorney general.

In 1999, it became state law for child pornography convicts to register as sex offenders for life. As of Jan. 12, 1,393 sex offenders convicted of child pornography were living in Illinois, said Tracie Newton, supervisor of the Illinois State Police Sex Offender Registration Unit.

Meanwhile, less than 250 people have been imprisoned for child pornography since 2005, according to figures provided the Illinois Department of Corrections. Last year, just 39 such offenders were in state correctional facilities, the figures showed.

Jachim has been in the DuPage County jail since his arrest about 10 months ago, and would receive credit for that time toward any prison term he might receive.

His attorney, Stephen Brundage, said he sees Jachim's military background and lack of prior criminal history as factors that weigh heavily in his client's favor.

Jachim served in the U.S. Navy from 1990 to 1996 and received high marks, according to records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. During that time, he received a Good Conduct Medal, national defense service medal, a sea service deployment ribbon and a Navy commendation medal.

The records list him as a data processing technician, but do not elaborate on his purported time with the Pentagon. He also has worked for the Daily Herald as an independent contractor.

Brundage said there's no evidence suggesting Jachim ever behaved inappropriately with youngsters or viewed any child pornography on government time or equipment.

"How is child pornography viewed when the person collecting it is not accused of acting out on it?" Brundage said. "There's a big difference in my opinion. But these laws are becoming so severe that the child pornography becomes almost as if you are acting out on it."

Jachim declined to be interviewed for this story, according to a jail official. He is being prosecuted by Kapas and Assistant Illinois Attorney General David Haslett, a former DuPage prosecutor.

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