WHITE PLAINS, New York — A West Point cadet was convicted Tuesday of amassing a collection of child pornography and sharing it over the Internet.
A federal court jury in White Plains found 25-year-old Ricky Patrick Hester guilty of possessing and distributing pornographic photos and videos.
Hester, of Granger, Indiana, faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison on the distribution conviction. No sentencing date was set.
The U.S. Military Academy issued a statement within hours of Hester's conviction saying it would start the process to dismiss him. He has been on unpaid administrative leave since his arrest in 2013, one semester short of graduation. West Point said then that the allegations against Hester were "inconsistent with the values of the U.S. Military Academy and the Army."
Hester was arrested at his barracks by Homeland Security agents. The government said emails expressing interest in child pornography had been traced to Hester from Idaho.
When agents questioned Hester, he "confessed in full," prosecutor Lauren Schorr said in the trial's opening statements. But Hester's lawyer, Patrick Mullin, responded that the agents' questioning and their search of his room were improper. He suggested that investigators settled on Hester as their suspect too soon, noting that another cadet used the same room and many cadets had access to a West Point wireless network.
Mullin refused to comment after the verdict.
Schorr said Hester used his cellphone and a Dropbox account to collect "hundreds of shocking portrayals of children" and then engaged in trading over the Internet. She told jurors he had transmitted an email message saying he was interested in images of "boys tied up and being forced to do things."
Schorr warned the jurors that they would be seeing disturbing, graphic evidence.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said after the verdict that Hester had "contributed to the victimization of the most vulnerable members of our society, our children."