As FBI agents prepared to search Ronald Lovett's Niskayuna home in February 2012, he told them he first needed to take his daily medication and then asked to comfort his wife.
But his requests were just a ruse, federal investigators said later: His real goal was to destroy volumes of child pornography he had stored on his MacBook.
Lovett, 67, quietly began filling the kitchen sink with water as he pretended to take his medication. Then, as he embraced his wife, authorities said he whispered a simple request to her: Grab the laptop and put it in the sink.
She complied, submerging the computer with more than 10,000 images of child pornography in a sink full of water. Still, authorities were able to retrieve images from the damaged MacBook and build a case against Lovett that has landed him as much as eight years in federal prison.
Lovett, who admitted to a single count of possessing child pornography, was also ordered today to pay $17,500 in fines and $5,661 in restitution to a pair of victims identified in the pornography he possessed. He will also have to register as a sex offender and may have no unsupervised contact with minors.
Authorities said Lovett used FrostWire and Gnutella — two peer-to-peer file sharing services — to download and share child pornography. They also said he accessed various child pornography websites, downloading thousands of images onto his home computer, thumb drives and external hard drives between May 2007 and February 2012 — just before he was arrested.
Undercover investigators from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, monitored activity on the file-sharing site to identify users who were sharing child pornography. They identified a computer at Lovett 's residence that was making files available on two separate occasions: June 29, 2011, and Jan. 19, 2012.
Lovett initially faced a slew of charges, including four counts of possession of child pornography, two counts of distribution of child pornography and one count each of receipt of child pornography and tampering with evidence. The plea agreement in March had him admit to a single count of child pornography possession.
Lovett faces a minimum of five years in prison under the agreement. Terrence Kindlon, Lovett's attorney, argued for the lesser sentence, claiming his client is in poor health and leads an otherwise exemplary life in his community.
In a pre-sentencing memorandum, Kindlon described Lovett as an Army veteran and loving father of two adult children. He stated his client simply viewed the images and was unaware the file-sharing service was distributing the images he downloaded to others.
"Mr. Lovett has very consistently maintained that he was not aware that by downloading the images using FrostWire or Gnutella, he was making them available to other users of said programs," Kindlon stated.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Belliss argued for a much harsher sentence of at least 13 years, stressing that Lovett's sharing of files "helped fuel the demand for images and videos that depict the sexual exploitation of children." He also included a statement from "Vicky," an underage girl whose father molested her and took some of the images that were found in Lovett's possession.
"[My father] is in jail and can never hurt me. That is over," she said in a victim impact statement. "The men that download my pictures are all around me for all I know, and it will keep going on forever. I have no control over it at all. This is frightening, beyond belief."