Was Previously Convicted of Sex Offense in Maryland State Court; Faces Potential Mandatory Minimum Sentence of Ten Years in Federal Prison
Greenbelt, Maryland – Bruce Ralph Sturtz, age 73, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, pleaded guilty today to the federal charge of possession of child pornography.
The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge Jennifer C. Boone of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; and Colonel Woodrow W. Jones III, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police.
According to Sturtz’s plea agreement, on February 26, 2017, a Maryland State Police (“MSP”) investigator conducted an online investigation of Sturtz after three separate law enforcement officers working through the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (“ICAC”) downloaded child pornography videos from a device at an IP address assigned to Sturtz’s residence. The investigator found that Sturtz’s computer was running software that allowed other users to download a video that had previously been identified as child pornography. The investigator downloaded and viewed the video, which documented the sexual abuse of a prepubescent female.
Less than a month later, on March 23 and March 24, 2017, investigators conducting online investigations for offenders sharing child pornography directed their focus to the Sturtz device because it was running the same computer software. The investigators downloaded and viewed videos shared by the Sturtz device, which contained images of prepubescent females engaged in sexually explicit conduct, including bondage and bestiality.
On October 25, 2017, a federal search warrant was executed on Sturtz’s residence. At the time the search warrant was executed, Sturtz was downloading child pornography onto his computer. Law enforcement seized a number of electronic devices. A subsequent forensic analysis of the seized electronic devices revealed at least 1,356 videos and 16 pictures depicting child pornography. The videos and images found on the seized electronic devices included child pornography of babies and toddlers, other children under 12 years of age, including incest, bondage, bestiality, and sexual acts between adults and victim children. Forensic analysts were also able to identify on the seized electronic devices the three video files that were downloaded by investigators from Sturtz’s device.
Sturz has previously been convicted of a sex offense involving a minor. On October 6, 2000, Sturtz pled guilty to a third-degree sex offense in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, Maryland and was later sentenced to 10 years in prison, with all but eighteen months suspended, plus five years of probation.
The Government plans to argue at Sturtz’s sentencing that Sturtz faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison for the possession of child pornography subsequent to sustaining a prior state conviction relating to sexual abuse or abusive sexual conduct involving a minor.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc. For more information about Internet safety education, please visit www.justice.gov/psc and click on the “Resources” tab on the left of the page.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the FBI, and the Maryland State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force for their work in this investigation. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leah B. Grossi and Joseph R. Baldwin, who are prosecuting the federal case.