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Former St. Pete cop gets 8 years for child porn

Matthew Enhoffer resigned from the St. Petersburg Police Department last year after federal agents found he’d collected and traded sexual images of children. He pleaded guilty earlier this year.

TAMPA — A former St. Petersburg police officer who collected and shared sexual pictures and videos of children should serve eight years in prison, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

Matthew Enhoffer, who resigned from the St. Petersburg Police Department last year as federal agents searched his computers, must also serve 10 years of supervision after his release, U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven ruled.

He will also be barred from using computers without permission from a probation officer, cannot have contact with children, must undergo mental health treatment and must register as a sex offender for life.

Enhoffer, 35, pleaded guilty in February to possession and distribution of child pornography.

He said little in court Wednesday. But in a 12-page handwritten letter to the judge, he wrote of an addiction to pornography. He said he had struggled to understand the root cause. Although he was aware of his problems, he said he did not know where to turn for help.

“While I never used my position as a police officer to further any criminal acts, I fully understand how I breached the public trust, and I understand how I lapsed in my duty,” he wrote. “I knew these things while I was committing these acts, and honestly it made me hate myself and the person I was. Every day, I found myself repeating, over and over, ‘I hate myself' and ‘I hate my life.’”

Enhoffer had been a police officer for six years when he resigned. In 2015, he received the Medal of Valor for his actions during a shootout with a troubled teen.

Related: Ex-St. Pete cop to plead guilty to child porn charges

In July 2019, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received a tip from the administrators of a social media application. Someone using the name “thehoff727” had uploaded two images of child pornography. The tip was sent to Homeland Security Investigations, which linked the name to an internet protocol address assigned to Enhoffer’s home.

Agents executed a search warrant and retrieved several laptop computers, a desktop computer, an iPad and an iPhone. A forensic review of the devices turned up hundreds of pictures and a handful of videos depicting children engaging in sexual activity and being sexually abused.

Some children in the images were estimated to be as young as 4 to 7 years old, according to testimony. Some images showed children in bondage.

Related: Decorated St. Petersburg officer faces child porn charges

Agents also found messages showing that Enhoffer had shared some images with another person.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Lisa Thelwell argued that Enhoffer had lived a “double life." She said that he should be held to a higher standard, given his status as a police officer.

“His position in the community as a law enforcement officer is an aggravating factor in this particular case,” Thelwell said. “And frankly, he needs to be held accountable for that.”

Defense attorney Frank McDermott said Enhoffer’s profession should have no bearing on the seriousness of the crime. He emphasized that his client had accepted responsibility for what he’d done, that he realized it was wrong, and that he is disgusted by his conduct.

“It is, to him, repulsive,” McDermott said.

Slouched at a defense table, Enhoffer nodded.

A forensic psychologist diagnosed Enhoffer with a pedophilia disorder, but noted there is no indication that Enhoffer harmed any children. A report also noted that Enhoffer would be amenable to treatment and carries heavy guilt.

“He is completely disgraced,” McDermott said. “He will live with that shame, certainly, forever.”

The sentence was below the 12-to-15-year range suggested by federal guidelines. But it was greater than the 5-year mandatory minimum a defense attorney requested.

Scriven noted Enhoffer’s expressions of remorse and his contributions to the community.

But the judge expressed concern after a psychologist specializing in sex offender treatment testified about Enhoffer’s most recent romantic relationship.

Ruben Drake, a mental health counselor who testified for the defense, mentioned that Enhoffer had a relationship with a woman who was 18. This spurred a series of inquiries from the judge about the nature of the relationship, how old she was when they met and whether she was really 18.

Drake said he believed they’d met online, that they’d been together for a period of years, and that they’d met in person in California.

“Why did he go to California to meet a teenager?” the judge asked. “That didn’t raise any red flags for you?”

Drake laughed nervously.

“You’re chuckling,” the judge said. “I don’t understand why this is funny.”

“I’m embarrassed,” he said.

As the prosecutor scrutinized Drake’s clinical notes, it appeared they indicated the woman was 18 and Enhoffer was 28 when they met online. The relationship was from 2014 to 2019.

The judge weighed whether to order Enhoffer to disclose the woman’s name and contact information.

The defense requested two weeks to research whether Enhoffer, by having the counselor testify, had waived his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

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