Airline mogul gets 30 years in child porn case

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Associated Press

Posted on December 19, 2012 at 11:04 AM

Updated Thursday, Dec 20 at 5:02 AM

BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) — The founder of a South Texas cargo airline was given 30 years in prison Wednesday for federal child pornography charges, after undercover officers posing as young teenage girls said they caught him engaging them in explicit online chats.

Robert L. Hedrick was sentenced in federal court in Brownsville, Texas. The 61-year-old Hedrick — who at trial blamed former business associates for conspiring to frame him — said Wednesday that he couldn't apologize for crimes he didn't commit.

"I can't ask the court for anything," Hedrick said Wednesday, according to the Brownsville Herald. "I was framed. I didn't do what I was charged and convicted of."

Prosecutors had asked for 90 years in prison, but Hanen set sentences on other charges to run concurrently due to Hedrick's age, the newspaper reported.

Hedrick founded Pan American Airways, a cargo airline he set up in a building that once belonged to Pan American World Airways — the once-renowned airline that collapsed in 1991. Hedrick's airline ran flights between the U.S. and Latin America. He was also president of a global pool supply company and a logistics company, according to trial testimony.

Hedrick testified on his own behalf in May, jumping from secret government contracts during the Cold War to business disputes to a failed marriage.

Prosecutors presented evidence at trial tying Hedrick to the chats with undercover officers posing as 13- and 14-year-old girls. They said Hedrick sent detectives 136 images of adult and child pornography, along with a webcam video of himself masturbating, and played in court an audiotape of Hedrick talking explicitly about sex.

Authorities found more than 2,400 images and 18 child pornography videos on Hedrick's laptop and two external hard drives, prosecutors said. Some of the children in the materials were later identified as known victims of sexual assault, prosecutors said.

Defense attorneys denied it was Hedrick at the keyboard, trying to use the Internet's thin veil of anonymity to raise doubts among jurors, and claimed he had a long list of enemies with the motivation and money to set him up.

Prosecutors on Wednesday said they presented victim impact statements from two witnesses and their families.

Hedrick was also ordered to pay $5.4 million in restitution.

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