A former Seat Pleasant police chief who was convicted of possessing child pornography and enticing a teenage boy to pose for sexually explicit photographs was sentenced by a federal judge in Greenbelt yesterday to 10 years in prison.
Ronald C. Forrest, 40, of Clinton, did not react outwardly as U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams Jr. announced the sentence.
Dressed in a green jail jumpsuit, Forrest, who has been in custody since his May 19 conviction, declined an invitation to address the court. Forrest's attorney and relatives said the conviction will be appealed.
According to testimony at his trial in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, Forrest was chief of police in Seat Pleasant when he gained the confidence of the teenage boy and took nude photos of him in 2001. The youth is now 16, officials said.
"This is a very sad case, because there are so many victims," Williams said.
Besides the teenage victim, "the people of the city of Seat Pleasant have also been victimized," the judge said. "They trusted the chief. They've been let down. "
During yesterday's sentencing hearing, Forrest's attorney, Atiq Ahmed, urged Williams to consider a lighter sentence for his client. Ahmed cited a recent Supreme Court decision that brought into question the validity of federal sentencing guidelines in certain cases.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney David I. Salem said the law "is unforgiving with respect to those who prey on vulnerable victims."
Salem said Forrest's victim, who has been identified in court only as Steven, considered the former Seat Pleasant chief a father figure. "[Forrest] cloaked himself in a position of trust, as chief of police," Salem said. "That is shameful, disgraceful and unforgivable."
Williams said the Supreme Court decision cited by Ahmed did not affect Forrest's sentence, and he noted that Congress has passed tough child pornography laws in recent years. "There's not much choice in what the sentence will be," Williams said. "He has to serve 10 years. It seems the message to all of us is that Congress will not tolerate this kind of behavior."
Forrest, who did not testify, became Seat Pleasant's police chief in 1998. He was fired shortly after his arrest last September.
According to testimony at his trial, Forrest met Steven in 1999 through the department's junior police program. Steven testified that he sometimes visited Forrest's home, and that Forrest took nude photos of him in 2001 after offering him $50 to $80 to disrobe. The teenager testified that Forrest asked him to strike sexually provocative poses.
The youth also testified that Forrest touched him in a sexual manner and performed a sex act.
A former girlfriend of Forrest's found the photographs in a photo album in Forrest's basement.