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Tor pedo torpedoed: Ex-US cybersecurity guru jailed for 25 years in abuse pics sting

Maintains innocence, claims he was just trying to 'defeat Tor'

A former US government cybersecurity official who was arrested in 2013 on charges of participating in an online pedophile ring has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Timothy DeFoggi, who at the time of his arrest was acting director of cybersecurity for the Department of Health and Human Services, is the sixth person to be convicted in an ongoing FBI investigation into child sex abuse material distributed via the anonymizing Tor network.

"Using the same technological expertise he employed as Acting Director of Cyber Security at HHS, DeFoggi attempted to sexually exploit children and traffic in child pornography through an anonymous computer network of child predators," Assistant Attorney General Caldwell said in a statement.

DeFoggi's sentence is the harshest yet imposed on any of those involved with the specific Tor hidden website in question, which was shut down by the FBI in December 2012. Aaron McGrath of Omaha, Nebraska, who was charged with operating the site, was sentenced in January 2014 to just 20 years.

The other men nabbed in the FBI's sting – Zackary Austin, Wesley Cameron, Jason Flanary, and Charles MacMillan – similarly received sentences of between 12 and 20 years.

During a four-day trial in August 2014, however, a jury heard how DeFoggi, 56, contacted another member of the site to arrange a meeting "to fulfill their mutual fantasies to violently rape and murder children."

In his defense, DeFoggi said he did use Tor, but denied using it to access child pornography, saying that he was using the network to look for leaked files that could compromise national security.

Prosecutors countered, however, that DeFoggi was found engaged in the act of downloading kiddie porn at the very moment the feds raided his Germantown, Maryland home at 0530 in April 2013.

According to the Omaha World-Herald, DeFoggi – who still maintains his innocence following his conviction – wept during his sentencing hearing on Monday, saying his cybersecurity work for the federal government had been his passion.

"It was in my blood and I loved every part of it," DeFoggi told the judge. "My passion was to defeat Tor."

He also said that his time in jail had allowed him to read the Bible and the encyclopedia, adding, "If I had been out, I would have never had the opportunity to do that."

Judge Laurie Smith Camp appeared unmoved, and sentenced DeFoggi to 25 years, although the most severe charge against him – engaging in a child exploitation enterprise – could have landed him a life sentence.

DeFoggi's attorney argued that the sentence was harsher than the actual crime of which DeFoggi was convicted and asked the judge for a new trial, claiming he had evidence that another member of DeFoggi's household could have been the one who accessed the child pornography sites. But the judge denied that request, saying the government had presented ample evidence of DeFoggi's guilt. ®

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