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Former Tampa officer gets nearly 5 years for child porn

Jonathan Gamson, 53, is a former Tampa police officer.
Published May 9, 2013

TAMPA — One day, a little girl was bound and blindfolded and then photographed while someone sexually assaulted her.

Jonathan Gamson wasn't there. But he later unearthed the photo from the Internet and kept it. That choice, along with a few similar choices, will cost the former Tampa police officer nearly five years of freedom.

"I know it's not an excuse, but in my real life, I helped children," a sobbing Gamson told U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven at his sentencing hearing Wednesday.

"In my job, I did everything I could to protect people."

It was true. Gamson once earned a commendation for saving a suffocating child pinned beneath a car. He freed a stabbing victim from her attacker. Praise fills his Tampa police personnel file, and he was well-liked on the job.

But his 25-year career came to a screeching halt in May 2011 after agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security found his online footprints during a global effort to detect child predators.

A search of his family's Valrico home turned up five images of child pornography on one computer. Scriven described one image as "sadistic" and "horrific," involving conduct that caused pain, noting that a girl was hung by her wrists from the ceiling.

At first, nothing was found on a second computer. Agents left it behind. Further analysis showed it had been used to access porn sites. But when agents returned for it, the hard drive was gone.

Under questioning by the judge, Gamson, 53, said he removed the hard drive after vowing not to view child porn again.

She told him that a police officer should have known better than to destroy evidence.

"I had no idea they were coming back," Gamson replied.

Before imposing a sentence of four years and nine months, Scriven asked Gamson whether anything in his past had caused the behavior.

He told her what he has since learned in therapy. He talked about the childhood humiliation of being ridiculed for attending a special school for kids with behavioral problems.

He suffers from low self-esteem, he learned. Outwardly, it drove him to seek approval and try to please people. He became an overachiever to compensate for how he feels about himself.

Inwardly masochistic, he said, he identified with the victims in the photos.

"I was the little child in the room," he said.

Staff writer Patty Ryan can be reached at pryan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3382.

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