Thursday, April 26, 2018
News Roundup

St. Petersburg pilot convicted of all child porn charges

TAMPA — Former American Airlines pilot Donald Gallagher was convicted Thursday of making child pornography in a bedroom of his St. Petersburg home, in addition to downloading and sharing illegal images from the Internet.

He will face at least 15 years in prison, the minimum required by federal law for producing child porn, at his June 2 sentencing.

He also stands to lose his $472,000 home in the Weedon Cove neighborhood of St. Petersburg to forfeiture.

The jury was out for just a few hours before returning convictions on two counts of child porn production and one count each of distribution and possession.

Earlier this week, before the government rested its case before U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday, the panel of nine women and three men saw excerpts from Gallagher's child porn collection. The most hard-core images, depicting rape and bondage, came from the Internet. But jurors also saw homemade videos of Gallagher, 52, touching two young girls.

Defense attorney Jeffrey G. Brown called no witnesses when his turn came Thursday.

In his summation, he acknowledged that Gallagher collected child porn through a file-sharing program, but said the pilot was unaware that others could access his collection.

As for the homemade videos, the defense attorney said they were not disseminated.

"They were stored in a storage box in a closet, a locked closet, on the top shelf, in a locked house for two years," Brown said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Josephine Thomas drew little distinction between Gallagher and the makers of the videos he downloaded.

"They all started just like him," she said.

Thomas pushed aside suggestions that he didn't know others could access his porn.

"This is a smart man," she said, later noting that he piloted jumbo jets. "He explained to agents exactly how a peer-to-peer program works."

What he did, she said, was the equivalent of putting child porn in a box on his lawn with a sign that said, "Please help yourself."

Staff writer Patty Ryan can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3382.

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