TAMPA — Former Florida Department of Children and Families spokesman Al Zimmerman faces a mandatory minimum 15-year prison sentence after pleading guilty Wednesday to producing child pornography.
Zimmerman, 41, formerly of Tallahassee and Lakeland, was scheduled to go to trial Monday on charges of production of child porn, possession of child porn, receipt of child porn and obstruction of justice. The remaining three counts will be dismissed at the time of his sentencing, which Senior U.S. District Judge Susan C. Bucklew set for April 23.
Asked by the judge whether he had reviewed a signed plea agreement with his attorney, Zimmerman responded, "Extensively, your honor."
"Once I accept your plea, you can't change your mind," Bucklew told Zimmerman. "Today is the day of reckoning, in essence."
The plea requires that Zimmerman also register with law enforcement as a sex offender.
Before becoming press secretary for the DCF, Zimmerman worked as a reporter for Bay News 9. He left the station in late 2004 and began working for the DCF in spring 2005.
Federal prosecutors say that from at least October 2004 until December 2007, in Hillsborough and Orange counties, Zimmerman became friendly with minor males and enticed them into producing sexually explicit images that he sometimes had the boys send to his cell phone or Yahoo e-mail account.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Colleen Murphy-Davis said investigators had identified six or seven of Zimmerman's victims, including one who was a foster child in the state's care.
Murphy-Davis said that Zimmerman sometimes coached the boys on poses. Prosecutors said he also paid some for their photographs and told them their pictures would be sold overseas.
Zimmerman has remained in federal custody since February.
Kevin Graham can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3433.