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AFA Red-Faced with Kiddie Porn Sentence

Tupelo, Mississippi- A former official at American Family Radio, which regularly warns listeners about the dangers of pornography, must serve 15 years in prison for producing child pornography.

In federal court in Aberdeen Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Glen H. Davidson sentenced Kerry Dwayne Stevens, 47, of Tupelo, who pleaded guilty to two counts of producing child pornography. A law passed by Congress last year requires a mandatory 15-year sentence for creating child pornography.

“It’s tragic for everybody involved,” said the Rev. Donald Wildmon, founder and executive director of the Tupelo-based American Family Association, which started the fast-growing Christian radio network. “It’s one of those things you wish had never happened. His family was devastated.”

American Family Radio – with more than 200 stations in 35 states – fired Stevens, who produced a children’s show for the network as director of children’s news, but Wildmon said the association has helped to support the family financially through the tragedy.

U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee of Oxford praised the cooperation of Tupelo police and the FBI in the case. “The citizens of Tupelo and the (Northern District of Mississippi) should be glad to know that child pornography creators such as Mr. Stevens are being held accountable,” he said.

Stevens must now register as a sex offender and submit DNA samples. He must also take lie detector tests and undergo psychiatric treatment.

On Aug. 23, 2003, two California men renting Stevens’ home during the Tupelo Furniture Market spotted images of possible child pornography on a computer disk while searching for an empty disk. They turned two disks over to Tupelo police.

Four days later, police arrested Stevens, who remarked “he had a problem with children pornography,” but “had not touched any of the children.”

After his arrest, court documents say Stevens urged 1st District U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker to influence Davidson to rule favorably on a motion to suppress evidence. In a motion opposing bond, prosecutors wrote, “This overt attempt to obstruct justice should surely weigh on the court in assessing guilt, flight risk and danger to the community.”

In his letter to Wicker, Stevens wrote, “I took my eyes off of Jesus for a moment and did something terrible … I took some pictures of one of my daughter’s friends. Suffice it to say that these pictures were of her in various sleeping positions. Let me hasten to add that I never touched her person, nor are there any … showing her face, nor was there any involvement with the Internet. I did not do this for personal profit, but from a dark sin. Nor did I touch her, because I didn’t want to wake her and have her damaged psychologically. And truthfully, I didn’t want to take a chance on getting caught.

“I know what I did was wrong. Oh, how I wish I could simply undo what I’ve done!! But I can’t.”

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Roberts in court suggested Stevens did more than just snap pictures, saying photographs showed an adult hand adjusting clothing and in one case touching a minor child.

The American Family Association, which boasts it has more than 2 million members, has made fighting pornography one of its top priorities.

AFA has promoted a boycott of the Movie Gallery video chain for its rental of porn videos and has urged parents to complain about grocery checkout lines where “kids (are) corralled like cattle and force-fed doses of porn” from magazines such as Cosmopolitan.

The association sells Internet filters to families to block objectionable material and offers workshops and counseling to those combating pornography and “sex addiction.”

Days after the arrest, Wildmon met with Stevens. “He was just a shell of a person,” Wildmon said. “We told him we forgive him.”

Wednesday’s sentencing serves as a reminder, Wildmon said. “It shows everybody is vulnerable. If not this, then something else along the way. All of us are weak in some area.”

Back story, 8/27/2003: An employee of the Tupelo-based American Family Association was arrested Wednesday and charged with possession of child pornography.

Lt. Tim Tate of the Tupelo Police Department Criminal Investigation Division said police and FBI agents, armed with a search warrant, arrested Kerry Dwayne Stevens, 47, at his residence at 105 Andrews Circle in Tupelo.

Because the investigation is ongoing, Tate declined to comment on what initiated the search warrant or what materials were seized from Stevens’ home. Tate did confirm that authorities found pornographic digital pictures of children.

Lee County Justice Court Judge John Sheffield set a $500,000 bond for Stevens, who faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

For the past three years, Stevens has worked on the production staff for American Family Radio, which operates more than 140 radio stations in 29 states.

Patrick Vaughn, general counsel for AFA, said the FBI notified the association of Stevens’ arrest Wednesday but no action has been taken regarding Stevens’ employment with AFA.

“We are praying for Dwayne and his family,” Vaughn said, adding the incident is a reminder of the destructive nature of pornography.

“AFA has been in a fight against pornography since 1979 because pornography is so destructive to individuals, families and society,” he said. “We would like to remind everyone that they need to be on guard against pornography’s addictive lure.”

According to the American Family Radio Web site, Stevens grew up in Greenville and then Dyersburg, Tenn. He attended four colleges and universities, earning three degrees in the process.

He has been married for 25 years and has three children.

Mississippi law prohibits the exploitation of children, meaning that any kind of picture that appears to be a child in a sexual context is a felony. The penalty runs up to 20 years imprisonment for a first offense and 30 years imprisonment for a second offense.

 

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