Sunday, June 24, 2018
News Roundup

Largo puppeteer who wanted to cannibalize boys is sentenced to 20 years

TAMPA — A federal judge sentenced a Largo church puppeteer who wrote online about sexually torturing and eating children to 20 years in prison Monday, punctuating a criminal case whose unsettling details raised difficult questions about free speech and due process.

Ronald William Brown, a 58-year-old professional puppeteer who lived at the Whispering Pines mobile-home park, was also sentenced to a lifetime of supervision following his release. He will be required to register as a sex offender and be restricted from access to areas frequented by children, U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore ruled.

Brown had only pleaded guilty to possessing and receiving child pornography and was never charged with doing direct physical harm to anyone. But Whittemore agreed with prosecutors that the unusual circumstances of his case warranted an upward departure from the prison term of 6.5 to 8 years suggested under federal sentencing guidelines.

In addition to receiving pornography, federal agents found that Brown had engaged in protracted online discussions with other child-cannibalism enthusiasts about kidnapping, killing, cooking and eating children, including a specific boy at his church in Largo.

Prosecutors introduced into evidence a photograph of the boy that Brown had labeled in the style of a butcher's diagram, with different parts of his body labeled as "steaks" and "shanks."

"Perverted is not a strong enough word, Mr. Brown, to describe what you've been engaged in," Whittemore said Monday. "Depraved isn't strong enough. … All the adjectives seem inadequate."

Brown's attorneys had argued for leniency in sentencing, noting that Brown had no criminal record and had spent decades of his adult life working around children without acting on the gruesome impulses he professed.

"He lives in a fantasy world," Eric Kuske Leanza, Brown's Tampa-based attorney, told the judge Monday. Leanza said he was being placed in the difficult position of defending thoughts his client had never translated to actions. "I can't defend things that never occurred," he said.

Brown's puppet shows were well known in Pinellas County, where he worked with various community groups. He once had a regular job performing with a ventriloquist's dummy named Marty on a Christian Television Network children's show called Joy Junction.

Prosecutors argued that Brown's was not a garden-variety pornography case. Authorities say he had multiple images of dead children and children in bondage in his computer files. He pleaded guilty to eight counts of possessing or receiving child pornography in March.

"Mr. Brown's interest is not just in children," Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Kaiser said. "It's in dead children, which is fairly unusual, I think." Kaiser said Brown had even gotten in touch with a local funeral home seeking work so that he could be around corpses. Brown had also bragged in one chat about molesting a boy in a pool, Kaiser said.

Documents filed last week by prosecutors also assert handwritten journals found in Brown's home show he had "a long pattern and history of obsessing about individual boys" as far back as 1979, some of whom he knew through his "puppet ministry" at Pinellas County churches.

In 1993, the journals show, Brown became "obsessed" with a boy he knew through his puppet work and "repeatedly drove past the Dunedin Middle School at 4 p.m. hoping to see" him. He indicated in the journals that he "liked" another boy but "got mad at him for losing interest in the puppets."

Kaiser said the patterns of infatuation, obsession and resentment in the journals were similar to those in a "teen's diary," but for the frequent references to puppets and Brown's musings about killing one of the boys who had drawn his attention.

"Protection of the public is the final and perhaps the most significant aspect of this proceeding," Whittemore said in explaining his ruling. In Brown's case, he added, "the risk is there that that obsession becomes something more than fantasy."

Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3337. Follow him on Twitter @petejamison.

Comments
Suspect dead, 2 injured in St. Petersburg home invasion-turned-shooting

Suspect dead, 2 injured in St. Petersburg home invasion-turned-shooting

ST. PETERSBURG — Three people forced their way into a St. Petersburg house before dawn Sunday before gunfire broke out, killing a suspect and injuring two residents, police said.About 5:30 a.m., the people arrived at a house in Childs Park, on the 41...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Making the case for more drones

Making the case for more drones

BLACKSBURG, Va. - They considered how well everyone slept the night before. They considered the chances a military jet might scream by on a training mission. They considered the farmer in the field.Then they considered some more.After making it throu...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Why a small-town restaurant owner asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave - and would do it again

Why a small-town restaurant owner asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders to leave - and would do it again

LEXINGTON, Va. - Stephanie Wilkinson was at home Friday evening - nearly 200 miles from the White House - when the choice presented itself.Her phone rang about 8 p.m. It was the chef at the Red Hen, the tiny farm-to-table restaurant that she co-owned...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

ST. PETERSBURG — With all that's been said, tweeted, ranted and written on these pages and elsewhere about the Rays' odd, unorthodox, weird and some days downright wacky pitching plan, this might be the craziest thing yet:It's working.Like, rea...
Published: 06/23/18
Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

There are many unanswered questions and discrepancies about the story of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston and the March 2016 Uber ride in Arizona that has led to his upcoming three-game suspension for violating the NFL's conduct policy.The Bucs won't ...
Published: 06/23/18
Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

A t his introductory news conference after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Bucs in 2015, Jameis Winston said to judge him on his actions moving forward."Actions speak so much louder than words, or what they may have read or what they may have hear...
Published: 06/23/18
Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Besides the continual evolution of their intriguing pitching plan, the primary topics of conversation for the Rays over the next several weeks will be trades and prospects. And not mutually exclusively.Some sooner than others, the Rays are going to c...
Published: 06/23/18
Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

It's rare to see an NHL draft pick with Tampa Bay ties, but the Jets used a third-round pick Saturday on center Nathan Smith, 19, who played for Mitchell High School in Trinity and most recently for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL.Smith was ...
Published: 06/23/18
Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Despite limited salary-cap room, the Lightning is among at least five teams expected to talk with Islanders All-Star center John Tavares, who can be a free agent July 1, when the courting period begins Sunday, ESPN reported.Tavares also is expected t...
Published: 06/23/18

Strangers are coming together to honor two killed in Bayshore crash

TAMPA — John Reisinger has seen miracles since his niece and 21-month-old grand-niece were killed while trying to cross Bayshore Boulevard 30 days ago. Some, he says, are too painful to talk about. Others he’s still trying to make sense of, such as h...
Published: 06/23/18