Va.'s Ex-ACLU Chief Gets 7 Years for Child Porn

By Bill Brubaker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 7, 2007; 3:14 PM

A former Arlington County youth sports coach and civil rights lawyer who once headed Virginia's American Civil Liberties Union chapter was sentenced today to seven years in federal prison for buying child pornography that prosecutors labeled sadistic and masochistic.

Charles Rust-Tierney, 51, pleaded guilty in June to downloading hundreds of pornographic images of children as young as 4. Authorities said Rust-Tierney used a computer in his 11-year-old son's bedroom to view the files, which included a six-minute video that depicted sexual torture of children, set to a song by the rock band Nine Inch Nails.

Dressed in an orange-and-white jumpsuit, Rust-Tierney, a divorced father of two boys, read tearfully from a prepared statement before U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis III handed down the sentence in the federal court in Alexandria.

"I stand before you with contrition, remorse and shame," Rust-Tierney said.

He had faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Prosecutors sought an eight-year, one-month term. Defense attorneys suggested five years.

"The child pornography you purchased was of the most abhorrent kind," Ellis said. "I don't think five years is enough."

Rust-Tierney was arrested Feb. 23 after his Arlington home was searched by officers from Arlington police and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The raid was part of a nationwide initiative -- Project Safe Childhood -- that was created in February 2006 by U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales.

Authorities said Rust-Tierney used his home computer to purchase Internet access to commercial child pornography Web sites at least five times between March 2005 and October 2006, spending about $420. During one two-week span, he accessed more than 850 digital image and video files of child pornography on one site. Many of these files showed children under the age of 12 being forced to engage in sexual acts with adult males, authorities said.

Rust-Tierney has been in jail since his arrest.

A federal magistrate who declined to release him in March described the images she viewed as "the most perverted and nauseating and sickening type of child pornography" she had seen in 10 years on the bench.

Ellis also refused to release Rust-Tierney, saying he posed "a serious risk of harm to the community." The judge added that "the term 'child pornography' does not convey the depravity" of the images that were downloaded.

At today's hearing, Ellis said Rust-Tierney will be monitored for 10 years after his release from a minimum-security prison. He also will not be allowed to take a paid or volunteer job involving supervision of children or have any unsupervised contact with children during those 10 years.

Ellis said authorities found no evidence that Rust-Tierney had inappropriate contact with any children.

Several dozen supporters, including parents from the teams he coached, turned out for the hearing. Many sobbed as Rust-Tierney spoke to the judge.

Rust-Tierney was president of the ACLU's Virginia affiliate from 1993 to 2005. He had coached youth baseball, soccer and football teams since 2003, according to law enforcement officials. He once served as president of Arlington Little League.

Until his arrest, he had worked for 17 years as a public defender, representing mentally ill clients in the District.

"Your life really presents a mystery as to why there are two -- two -- Mr. Tierneys," Ellis said. "Charles Tierney, the one who devoted his life to good works . . . [and] the other Charles Tierney, who committed serious crimes."

Rust-Tierney told Ellis that he viewed child porn as a way to escape "despair" in his personal life.

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