Monday, December 18, 2017
Public safety

Largo puppeteer pleads guilty to child porn charges

TAMPA — A Largo puppeteer who drew international attention over his alleged plans to kidnap and eat a child at his church has pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of possessing and receiving child pornography.

The plea, entered Monday in U.S. District Court in Tampa before Magistrate Judge Mark A. Pizzo, suggests a conclusion could finally be near in the saga of Ronald William Brown, 57.

While Brown had agreed to an earlier plea deal that fell apart, he signed his consent to the plea entered Monday, and now awaits sentencing, according to court documents.

In pleading guilty to eight counts of possessing or receiving child pornography, Brown has virtually guaranteed himself a harsher sentence than the one to which prosecutors had previously agreed.

Five of the eight counts against him carry a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum of 20 years.

Brown's attorney said in November that the earlier plea deal — which his client unexpectedly rejected at the last minute — would have brought about six years in prison.

Brown's lawyer, Eric Kuske Leanza of Tampa, could not be reached for comment Monday. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Tampa declined to comment on the plea.

Brown made headlines in July when federal agents arrested him on charges of possessing child pornography and conspiring to kidnap a child. Prosecutors later dropped the kidnapping charge.

According to court documents, Brown talked online with a Kansas man about his desire to abduct, cook and eat a boy from his church. A raid of Brown's house in the Whispering Pines mobile home park in Largo revealed child pornography, including sexualized images of dead children.

Brown volunteered in youth ministry at Gulf Coast Church in Largo, where he met the young parishioner who raised his interest. (The boy's identity was never disclosed by law enforcement officials.) He had also performed as a puppeteer on the Christian Television Network.

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Peter Jamison can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4157.

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