Published On: Sat, Oct 13th, 2018

California: Babysitter, Camp counselor Ryan Michael Spencer pleads guilty of pornographic photos, molesting kids

Ryan Michael Spencer pleaded guilty in federal court in San Francisco to two counts of production of child pornography, conspiracy to distribute and receive child pornography, distribution of child pornography, receipt of child pornography, possession of child pornography, and felony contempt of court, announced United States Attorney Alex G. Tse and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett.

In pleading guilty, Spencer admitted that he produced pornographic images of more than a dozen children with whom he came into contact through his jobs as a babysitter and camp counselor in the Santa Cruz area.  One set of such images depicted Spencer molesting a child that  he was babysitting. Spencer created other image by surreptitiously photographing the children’s genitalia and pubic areas while the children were naked and in his care.

Spencer admitted that, beginning no later than March 2015 and continuing until his arrest in April 2017, he conspired with his co-defendant, Tiburon-area babysitter Bryan Petersen, to trade the child pornography he produced for other images of child pornography that Petersen took of children in Petersen’s care.

The two men also conspired to distribute and receive child pornography from other sources.  Spencer admitted that he and Petersen shared child pornography using Kik Messenger and that, in the spring of 2016, he filled a hard drive with more than 30,000 images and videos of child pornography and gave it to Petersen.

Ryan Michael Spencer

Spencer also pleaded guilty to felony contempt of court based on his willful and knowing refusal to comply with U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer’s order compelling him to decrypt three electronic devices seized from his residence under a valid search warrant.  Twenty-one days after being held in civil contempt of court, Spencer decrypted the devices, which were found to contain child pornography, including images and a video of Spencer molesting a child who he was babysitting.

The investigation began when the FBI executed a search warrant at the home of Spencer’s co-defendant, Bryan Petersen, and found evidence on Petersen’s devices that Spencer was creating child pornography.  Petersen pleaded guilty in 2017 and is awaiting sentencing.

Spencer, 21, and Petersen, 27, were indicted by a federal Grand Jury on May 11, 2017.  The Grand Jury returned a superseding indictment on May 31, 2018, charging Spencer with Conspiracy to Distribute and Receive Child Pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2) and (b)(1), Production of Child Pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a) (two counts), Distribution of Child Pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2) (two counts), Receipt of Child Pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2), Possession of Child Pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B), and Contempt of Court in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 401(3).  Under the plea agreement, Spencer pled guilty to all counts and agreed to a sentence of 30 years’ imprisonment, subject to approval by Judge Breyer.

Spencer has been in custody since his arrest in April 2017.  His sentencing hearing is scheduled for February 20, 2019, at 10:00 am before Judge Breyer in San Francisco.  The maximum statutory penalty is 30 years for each count of production of child pornography and 20 years for the other child pornography counts, a fine of up to $250,000, plus restitution to the victims.  However, any sentence will be imposed by the court only after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence, 18 U.S.C. § 3553.

Julie D. Garcia is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Tong Zhang and Alycee Lane.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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