Sunday, April 22, 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.

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