CHARLOTTE, N.C. – On Thursday, U. S. District Judge Kenneth D. Bell sentenced Thomas Arthur Rittenhouse, 76, of Boone, N.C. to 20 years in prison on child pornography charges, announced Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. In addition to the prison term imposed, Rittenhouse was ordered to a lifetime of supervised release and to register as a sex offender.
According to filed court documents, evidence presented at Rittenhouse’s trial, and Thursday’s sentencing hearing, between 2014 and 2017, Rittenhouse used peer-to-peer computer networks to obtain dozens of videos depicting children being sexually abused. Rittenhouse also made the child abuse videos available for download by other users of the peer-to-peer network.
Evidence presented at trial established that Rittenhouse specifically used search terms associated with child abuse material to seek out such videos and images, and then shared those images with others. A forensic analysis of the devices that belonged to Rittenhouse revealed that he possessed more than 60 videos and 74 images depicting the sexual abuse of children, including adult men sexually abusing prepubescent children. According to court records, the defendant also told law enforcement that he had downloaded and deleted more than 1,000 child pornography files in the previous fifteen years.
In December 2019, a federal jury convicted Rittenhouse of two counts of transportation of child pornography, and one count of possession of child pornography. He is currently in federal custody and will be transferred to the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility.
In making Thursday’s announcement U.S. Attorney Murray commended the Boone Police Department and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation for their investigation of this case, and thanked Homeland Security Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their assistance.
Assistant United States Attorney Alfredo DeLaRosa prosecuted the case for the United States.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.