By Delon Shurtz on May 7, 2021.
The last of three Lethbridge men caught in a child pornography sting last year has been sent to prison.
Bryan Alas Hernandez, 19, was sentenced Wednesday in Lethbridge provincial court to two years in a federal penitentiary, following his guilty plea in January to one count of distributing child pornography.
The 19-year-old was arrested and charged with several child pornography offences after investigators found on three electronic devices videos and photos of children ranging from toddlers to teens in various stages of undress and engaged in sexual acts with other children, adults and animals.
Reading from an agreed statement of facts on the day Alas Hernandez pleaded guilty, the Crown presented the judge with graphic and detailed descriptions of the pornography, but didn’t offer any recommendations at that time for a sentence. Sentencing was adjourned until Wednesday’s court hearing to allow time for the preparation of a pre-sentence report, which provided the offender’s history and personal circumstances to help the lawyers and judge determine a fit sentence.
Investigators found five videos on the offender’s laptop computer, five images on one cellphone, and 16 images and 255 videos on another cellphone. Investigators also discovered Alas Hernandez had shared the child pornography with three other Internet users, and had purchased 130 child pornography videos from another Internet user for $10.
Crown Prosecutor Tara Hayes of Specialized Prosecution Services in Calgary pointed out that if not for Alas Hernandez’s young age – he was 18 at the time of the offences – and his guilty plea, she would likely have recommended a longer sentence. She said while his collection of material is not the “most depraved” she has seen, there is still a significant amount of child abuse, including violent child abuse and beastiality.
Hayes stressed that denunciation and deterrence are paramount considerations when sentencing someone for child pornography.
Lethbridge lawyer Darcy Shurtz said that after Alas Hernandez moved to Canada from El Salvador in 2018, he began playing video games and communicating with individuals on the Internet, who asked him to send them child pornography.
“He agreed; he purchased and ultimately distributed to people, we assume sir, may have been down in El Salvador, South America somewhere,” Shurtz said.
He added that his young client did not have a criminal record, and was naive in that he didn’t understand the severity of the offences.
In addition to his prison term, during which he must be assessed and receive counseling, Alas Hernandez will be on probation for three years. During his probation he is prohibited, with some exceptions, from being around anyone under the age of 16 and from going to places where anyone under the age of 16 is likely to be. Although he is allowed to use the Internet, he can only use the service under his own name, and he is prohibited from using anyone else’s electronic devices, including computers available at libraries or Internet cafes.
Alas Hernandez must submit a sample of his DNA for the National DNA Databank, and he must register with the Sex Offender Information Registry for 20 years.
Alas Hernandez was one of 18 Albertans – three in Lethbridge – who had been flagged by the RCMP’s National Child Exploitation Co-ordination Centre, which works with Internet and social media providers to track and investigate online instances of child sexual exploitation.
The other two Lethbridge men also pleaded guilty to their charges and were previously handed custodial sentences.
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