Saturday, January 20, 2018
Public safety

Harsher charges levied against Ronald William Brown, puppeteer accused of having child porn

TAMPA — Federal prosecutors have brought new charges against a 57-year-old Largo puppeteer accused of owning child pornography and musing online about his desire to kidnap, cook and eat a boy from his church.

The new indictment, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Tampa, is the latest twist in the highly publicized saga of Ronald William Brown.

Marked by a distinctive mix of cannibalistic fantasy and professional puppetry, Brown's tale ranked high on this year's unofficial list of Florida's strangest criminal cases.

A longtime resident of Whispering Pines mobile home park in Largo, Brown was arrested in July based on federal agents' accusations that he possessed a gruesome set of sexualized images depicting dead children. Agents also said in a criminal complaint that Brown had plotted online with a Kansas resident to cannibalize a boy from Gulf Coast Church in Largo.

Last month, Brown unexpectedly rejected a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney's Office that his defense lawyer, Eric Kuske Leanza of Tampa, said would have resulted in a six-year prison sentence. The new indictment filed by federal prosecutors Thursday is a predictably severe response.

Each of the eight child pornography charges now lodged against Brown could result in approximately 20 years in prison, depending on the age of the children in the images he possessed. If convicted, he could spend the rest of his life incarcerated, particularly if a judge chooses to issue "consecutive" or cumulative sentences for each count.

Brown's trial is set to begin in January. Leanza has filed a motion seeking a postponement.

Leanza did not return calls for comment Thursday.

The eight felony counts in the new indictment allege that Brown received multiple lewd images of children and possessed computer equipment containing child pornography.

Court documents filed by prosecutors state that a search of Brown's mobile home uncovered "hundreds of images of child pornography including various images showing children being bound and tortured" and "hundreds of images of deceased children."

The indictment filed this week is harsher than an earlier charging document, which included only one count of possessing and one count of receiving child pornography. Nevertheless, the latest allegations do not touch on the most sensational accusations at the time of Brown's arrest.

In addition to the porn charges, federal agents initially arrested Brown on a charge of conspiring to kidnap a child.

Brown was an active volunteer in the church's youth ministry, performing for congregants with his sizable array of puppets. He had also been a puppeteer on a Christian Television Network show for kids called Joy Junction.

Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.

Comments

Four people linked to Tampa carjacking captured hours later

TAMPA — It took officers just 27 minutes Friday night to capture four people who they said stole a car from its owner.The incident started outside the Ybor Coffee Shop at 5:45 a.m. A group approached the driver as he sat in his 2010 Toyota Corolla. T...
Updated: 7 hours ago

Florida National Guard soldier killed, five injured in Sebring crash

SEBRING — A soldier with the Florida National Guard was killed and five others were hospitalized after a multi-vehicle crash on Friday, officials said.The crash took place at about 1 p.m. at the intersection of U.S. 27 and Hammock Road.The soldiers ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Two New Port Richey men accused of stealing $11,000 in cellphone merchandise

Two New Port Richey men accused of stealing $11,000 in cellphone merchandise

NEW PORT RICHEY — Two New Port Richey men face charges after Pasco County deputies say they stole about $11,000 worth of cellphones and cellphone equipment at a Metro PCS store on State Road 54.Robert Jackson and Ronald Hartshorn were arrested Wednes...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Autopsy: drugs found in MLB star Roy Halladay’s system after plane crash

Autopsy: drugs found in MLB star Roy Halladay’s system after plane crash

When former Major League Baseball pitcher Roy Halladay died in a plane crash in November, he had amphetamines, morphine and the sleep aid zolpidem in his system, according to an autopsy report.Halladay, 40, died from blunt force trauma with drowning ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Former youth football president accused of stealing $29,000 from Pinellas league

Former youth football president accused of stealing $29,000 from Pinellas league

PALM HARBOR — The former president of a local youth football league is accused of stealing thousands of dollars from the group and using it in part to buy a mobile home.According to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, deputies on Tuesday arrested L...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Rapper Kodak Black arrested in Florida on grand theft, other charges

Rapper Kodak Black arrested in Florida on grand theft, other charges

FORT LAUDERDALE — Rapper Kodak Black has been ordered held without bail in Florida on seven felony charges that include child neglect and drug possession.The Broward Sheriff’s Office arrested the 20-year-old rapper, whose real name is Dieuson Octave,...
Published: 01/19/18
DUI arrest: Tampa man mistakes bank drive-through for Taco Bell

DUI arrest: Tampa man mistakes bank drive-through for Taco Bell

SPRING HILL — A 38-year-old Tampa man was arrested Wednesday on a charge of driving under the influence involving drugs or alcohol after deputies said he mistook a Bank of America drive-through for a Taco Bell.The branch manager of the Mariner Boulev...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18
Police presence at Martin Luther King Jr. Day after-party raises ire

Police presence at Martin Luther King Jr. Day after-party raises ire

ST. PETERSBURG — One after another, speakers stepped to the lectern at City Hall on Thursday and described the same image: police cruisers on every corner in Midtown, uniformed officers lined up across the roadway, souring what should have been a joy...
Published: 01/18/18
Tropical Breeze patron rides shuttle to check on crew

Tropical Breeze patron rides shuttle to check on crew

PORT RICHEY — Loretta Santini was one of a small group of customers boarding a Tropical Breeze Casino shuttle Thursday afternoon as the company sailed for the first day since another of its shuttle boats burned to the water Sunday, killing one woman....
Published: 01/18/18
Police: ‘Man-bun bandit’ seen stealing packages from Clearwater home

Police: ‘Man-bun bandit’ seen stealing packages from Clearwater home

Clearwater Police are searching for a "man-bun bandit" who is seen stealing packages from a residence.Police on Thursday tweeted this video of the suspect, who is seen attempting to balance multiple packages while gathering them at a home on Majestic...
Published: 01/18/18