Founder of Texas air firm convicted in child porn trial
MCALLEN, Texas (Reuters) - The founder of a Texas air cargo company was convicted on Monday of federal charges of possessing and distributing child pornography and attempted sexual exploitation of children, prosecutors said.
The Brownsville, Texas, federal jury hearing the case of Robert L. Hedrick, 60, deliberated for less than three hours before returning guilty verdicts on all counts against him.
He collected thousands of images depicting brutal sex acts on children - some of them infants - and made a video of himself masturbating that he shared online with an undercover investigator he thought was a 14-year-old girl in Louisiana, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Texas said in a statement.
Hedrick founded Pan American Airways, a cargo carrier based in Brownsville that shares the name of defunct international legacy carrier Pan American World Airways but is separate from that company, which went bankrupt in 1991.
Hedrick was convicted of attempted sexual exploitation of children, transfer of obscene materials to a minor and distribution and possession of child pornography after six days of trial testimony. Those were all the charges brought against him in an indictment last year.
All of Hedrick's actions that led to the charges occurred in 2010, except for his possession of child pornography, which continued until he was arrested on July 18, 2011, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said Hedrick contacted undercover investigators in Louisiana and Wisconsin via an Internet instant message service and email more than 20 times, sharing 136 images of adult and child pornography with detectives posing as teenage girls. Hedrick also asked the detectives he thought were children to share images of themselves in explicit poses and sex acts.
Hedrick also sought to have phone sex with an undercover female investigator, prosecutors said.
Hedrick's defense argued he was set up by hostile family members or associates.
Hedrick argued others may have accessed his computers to conduct the chat sessions, although he admitted he was masturbating on the webcam video and his voice was heard when attempting to have phone sex with the undercover detective, prosecutors said.
Agents seized more than 2,400 images and 18 videos of child pornography, prosecutors said.
Hedrick's attorney, Ed Stapleton, could not be reached for comment on Monday evening.
Hedrick will remain in custody pending a sentencing hearing, where he could be sentenced to life in prison and fined $250,000 on each count.
(This story was corrected to fix name of city in dateline, name of federal prosecutor's office in third paragraph)
(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis)
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