- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 8, 2017

A federal judge sentenced James Patrick Burke, a former special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration, to seven years in prison Thursday following a conviction for child porn.

Burke, 39, was indicted by the Justice Department after the FBI infiltrated a child porn website, “Playpen,” in 2015. After seizing Playpen’s server, federal investigators obtained a search order that allowed them to deliver malware to the computers of individuals attempting to access the website, in turn providing authorities with information used to identify and ultimately charge over 135 alleged visitors.

Federal investigators executed a search warrant at Burke’s residence in August 2015 after linking him to the website and seized two of his computers, the Justice Department recalled Thursday. He subsequently admitted having downloaded and viewed child pornography, but told authorities that he used forensic wiping software to purge evidence from his hard drives prior to pleading guilty last year.

Burke, of Massachusetts, was employed as a special agent with the DEA at the time of his arrest and had been assigned to the agency’s office in McAllen, Texas, local media reported at the time. He previously served nearly 20 years in the U.S. military, the Houston Chronicle reported previously.

U.S. District Judge Alfred H. Bennett “took into consideration Burke’s conduct as well as his law enforcement and military service” before handing down an 84-month prison sentence, the Justice Department said in a statement Thursday.

“In handing down the sentence, Judge Bennett stated he was repulsed by the crime Burke committed and was unmoved by the lengthy statement Burke made in court in which he attempted to shift the blame elsewhere,” the statement said.

Burke had accessed dozens of pages on Playpen prior to his arrest containing child pornography, according to investigators. He’ll serve 15 years of supervised release and be ordered to register as a sex offender in addition to serving seven years behind bars.

While some of the over 100 alleged Playpen visitors have pleaded guilty to related child porn charges, attorneys for several have argued in court against the government’s use of malware with mixed results.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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