Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Largo puppeteer won't face most serious charge in bizarre criminal case

LARGO — A professional puppeteer from Largo who captured international attention when he was arrested on suspicion of plotting to cannibalize a boy at his church will not face charges of conspiring to kidnap a child, a spokesman for federal prosecutors said Friday.

Ronald William Brown, 57, has instead been indicted by a federal grand jury on a count of possessing and a count of receiving child pornography, said William Daniels of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida.

The indictment, issued Thursday, is a significant turn in Brown's bizarre saga. It means the most sensational element of his case — a gruesome series of Internet chats in which he described to a man in Kansas his desire to kill, cook, and eat a child at Largo's Gulf Coast Church — did not constitute a crime, even by the traditionally loose standards of grand juries.

In an initial criminal complaint, federal agents sought to charge Brown with both pornography offenses and conspiring to kidnap a child. The latter charge, based on the chat sessions, could have led to life in prison. The pornography charges, by contrast, could lead to a sentence as short as five years.

"The indictment is obviously far less egregious than what he was initially accused of," said Eric Kuske, Brown's Tampa-based lawyer. He said it was "absurd" to prosecute his client over the instant messages professing a fondness for cannibalism, comparing Brown's writings to the grotesque but imaginary plots of movies such as The Silence of the Lambs and Dawn of the Dead.

"It's science fiction, for all intents and purposes," Kuske said.

He said he could not yet comment on whether Brown, who has been in federal custody since his arrest in July, would use the scaled-back scope of the indictment as grounds to argue for his release on bail. Prosecutors have said that Brown would pose a danger to the community if set free.

Daniels declined to comment on the dropping of the conspiracy charge.

Brown's arrest came as a shock to the many who knew him through his ties to youth programs in Pinellas County.

He was an active congregant at Gulf Coast Church in Largo — attending services with the boy he said he wanted to devour — and had worked for organizations including the Tampa Bay Rays and the Pinellas County School District. For years he performed on a children's show for the Christian Television Network.

Still, legal experts have said the available evidence did not seem to support a conspiracy charge.

"You have to be able to establish to a court and to a jury that there's something more to this than just mere words," said Largo criminal-defense lawyer John Trevena.

Federal agents who searched Brown's house at the Whispering Pines mobile home park in Largo found more direct evidence to support the child pornography charges in the indictment.

According to the criminal complaint against Brown, the agents discovered pornographic photos of minors bound and gagged on his computer, as well as "images of children that appear to be deceased."

Peter Jamison can be reached at pjamison@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4157.

Largo puppeteer won't face most serious charge in bizarre criminal case 10/05/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 4:33pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Gerald McCoy cares too much about what you think of him

    The Heater

    Gerald McCoy is right. We are going to miss him when he's gone.

    Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is one of 16 players to record at least five sacks in each of the past five seasons. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  2. Nine years later, library attack victim Queena works at learning to walk again

    News

    Slowly, Queena Phu is learning the act of walking again through exercises in locomotion, strength and balance.

    Queena Phu of Tampa and prosecutor Rita Peters arrive at the Stay In Step Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Center on Monday.
 Phu, 27, has endured a long road to recovery after suffering brain damage from a brutal attack that left her unable to walk, talk, see or eat on her own. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA  |   Times]
  3. Editorial: Bad decisions led to St. Petersburg's sewage crisis

    Editorials

    A scathing state report on St. Petersburg's massive sewage spills erases any lingering doubts that Mayor Rick Kriseman's administration recklessly closed a sewer plant before adding capacity elsewhere. It also accuses the city of violating state law and questions the wisdom of other decisions, from relying on deep …

    
A scathing state report on St. Petersburg's massive sewage spills erases any lingering doubts that Mayor Rick Kriseman's administration recklessly closed a sewer plant before adding capacity elsewhere.
  4. FWC: Polk man tried to sell gator tail

    Crime

    A Lakeland man faces charges after he killed an alligator, cut off its tail and tried to sell the meat to neighbors, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

    Shaun Sparks, 33, and Christy Michelle Vincent, 27, both of Lakeland, face charges after trying to sell an alligator tail that Sparks had cut off. [Photos courtesy of the Polk County Sheriff's Office]
  5. Watch Round 3 of Feeding Tampa Bay's Epic Chef Showdown

    Cooking

    TAMPA — Round 3 of the third annual Epic Chef Showdown to benefit Feeding Tampa Bay is Monday night, and you can watch it live right here.

    Chef Richard Bergendale of The Mill restaurant and Sous Chef Jeff Thornsberry of Locale Market competed in Round 1 of the Epic Chef Showdown. [Epicurean Hotel / Feeding Tampa Bay]