A 53-year-old Zanesville man was sentenced to at least 15 years in prison Wednesday morning for possessing thousands of pornographic images of children being raped and sexually abused for exploitation purposes.
He was sentenced on five second-degree felony counts of pandering obscenity involving a minor.
Cecil Dennis caught the attention of the Internet Crimes against Children Task Force and Homeland Security when he began searching, downloading and sending the images on the dark web.
In May, the Zanesville Police Department was notified of the possible crimes and joined the investigation which resulted in the execution of a search warrant at Dennis’ home.
When officers entered the bedroom, assistant prosecutor Tom McCarty said during the plea hearing that a computer was on playing porn.
According to assistant prosecutor Ron Welch, police located a thumb drive behind the computer work station that contained over 4,000 photos and videos of children between that ages of 2 and 10 being raped and sexually abused by adult men while they were awake and asleep.
When he was caught, McCarty said Dennis told investigators he should just get a slap on the wrist since he was only viewing the material.
Dennis told police he was saving the images to later share with law enforcement but never did.
Instead, Welch said there was evidence on the thumb drive that Dennis had viewed those images multiple times.
Dennis told authorities he had made contact with a woman in Russia who was sending him the images.
“Sexually abusing a child is horrific. Memorializing it by recording it or taking photos never provides the opportunity for the child to have any closure because these images are out there and somewhat readily available on all types of social media – social media platforms, search engines, websites, file sharing,” Welch said.
According to Welch, such abuse can take a significant toll on the mental health of a young child, including issues with relationships, eating disorder, substance abuse problems and suicide.
“The harm that it does to children is virtually indescribable,” he said.
Even though Dennis wasn’t the one assaulting the children, Welch said his demand for the material is what drives the abuse.
“As long as there is a market for people who want to see children sexually molested, there will be people who satisfy the need of the market, continue to molest children and video record it for the sexual gratification and monetary gain of others,” Welch said.
According to Welch, the images will be cataloged by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for law enforcement to potentially identify the victims.
“No penalty for somebody like this is ever enough, but we have constraints that are placed upon us by the legislature as to what the penalties can be and the sentences are then reviewed by another court to make sure that they are proportionate to the crime committed,” Welch said. “This is a sentence that we comfortable with being upheld when it goes to the court of appeals, as well as any other scrutiny by any other judicial body.”
Cecil must also register as a Tier II sex offender in addition to his prison term.