A Vandalia man who was found guilty on child pornography charges last week could, under Illinois law, be sentenced to more than 100 years in prison.
At the conclusion of a one-day bench trial last Wednesday, Judge Marc Kelly studied the evidence presented at trial during a brief recess before finding Ryan J. Koontz guilty on all 10 counts of child pornography.
Koontz was on trial for two Class X felonies alleging that he disseminated computer files of a child that he “reasonably should have known to be under the age of 13” engaged in sexual conduct.
Koontz was also charged with eight Class 2 felonies alleging possession and/or dissemination of child pornography.
The Class X felonies are punishable by up to 30 years in prison, and the maximum penalty for the Class 2 felonies is seven years in prison. Sentences could also include fines of up to $100,000.
State law mandates that sentences in such cases are to be served consecutively.
A sentencing hearing for Koontz has been set for 9 a.m. on Friday, April 20.
Koontz was taken into custody before daybreak on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, as a team of investigators from the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan – accompanied by Vandalia Police – executed a search warrant at Koontz’s Vandalia residence.
During last Wednesday’s trial, special prosecutor Shannon O’Brien of the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, who assisted Fayette County State’s Attorney Joshua Morrison with the prosecution in the case, had Tom Verola, an investigator with the Attorney General’s Office, and Steven Strahm, a senior computer evidence technician, testify.
Evidence presented during the trial included videos containing child pornography that were obtained through a search warrant for Koontz’s residence. Only Kelly could see the videos, with the volume turned off.
After the prosecution completed its case, Koontz’s attorney, Ed Veltman of Centralia told Kelly that Koontz had chosen not to testify.
In his docket entry, Kelly explained his verdict in detail.
“Evidence was (that) law enforcement tracked the videos to an account registered to the defendant in a computer the defendant acknowledged was given to him as a gift and contained references to the same passwords and user names used by the defendant on multiple accounts,” the judge’s docket entry reads.
“Furthermore, when confronted with this information, the defendant admitted to law enforcement his knowledge of the downloaded files contained on the laptop, and admitted his efforts to hide those files from others in the house, and stated that he knew it was wrong.
The courts viewing of the videos and Koontz’s stipulation that the videos were child pornography, the judge determined that Koontz “should have known the children were under the age of 13 and engaged in acts of sexual conduct,” Kelly said.
While Koontz argued that he did not knowingly share or disseminate those videos, which elevates the charges to Class X felonies, Kelly ruled, “evidence shows the defendant downloaded these images, based on (the court’s) prior findings, coupled with time frames presented (by the state in a trial exhibit).
“When viewing the totality of the evidence … the defendant did disseminate videos. The defendant used the peer-to-peer program Foofind, which is a sharing program that allows the user to transfer files from one another,” Kelly said in his ruling.
“The defendant’s argument that while he was (aware) that he could download from others through the program, he was unaware they could upload any files he has, make no sense,” the docket entry reads.
“The court further finds that no specific knowledge is required by statute, but merely that he did disseminate the child pornography.”