A federal judge sentenced an Alexandria man yesterday to 33 years and four months in prison, saying the defendant's plot to kidnap and murder a small child for a pornographic "snuff film" was "as evil as anything I can think of."
Daniel T. Depew, 28, was convicted in March by a federal jury in Alexandria of playing a leading role in a conspiracy to kidnap a boy off the streets and torture the child for as long as two weeks before suffocating him for a sex film. No child was ever targeted by the conspiracy.
U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III said "the notion that individuals would kidnap a child and sexually abuse and murder a child to derive some sexual pleasure out of that is truly chilling."
Ellis rejected arguments Depew made in a letter addressed to the court saying the defendant was merely acting out a sadomasochistic fantasy by participating in the early stages of the plot.
"I never for a moment believed that this was a fantasy and that you never intended to carry it out," Ellis told Depew just moments before passing sentence.
Dean Ashley Lambey, Depew's co-conspirator and a former volunteer in the Richmond Big Brothers program, pleaded guilty in November to the conspiracy and was sentenced to 30 years without parole.
Lambey was first targeted by San Jose police, who used computer bulletin board services to probe possible sex crimes. When Lambey answered a computer notice by officers, he said he was interested mainly in young boys.
Lambey and later Depew met with undercover police officers and federal agents in Northern Virginia hotels and, in secretly taped conversations, planned how to locate a child, subdue the child and wash away evidence of the killing. Depew said in the recordings that his "main interest is in doing the snuff."
James M. Lowe, Depew's attorney, argued during the trial that Depew was intimidated into participating in the later stages of the scheme by undercover agents who posed as makers of snuff films. Lowe said yesterday that Depew acknowledges his sadomasochistic practices, but added that his client "does not accept that he ever intended to carry out the murder of a child."
Assistant U.S. Attorney W. Neil Hammerstrom Jr. said Depew's lack of acceptance was more reason to impose a harsh sentence. "This man is so depraved, think what he would do to a nonconsenting 12-year-old," Hammerstrom said.
Ellis rejected any suggestion that Depew be shown leniency because he has tested positive for AIDS, but ordered that he be held in a facility where he could receive physical and psychological treatment.