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In Tampa, Florida, U.S. District Judge Steven D. Merryday sentenced yet another pedophile with connections to the FBI’s notorious ‘Operation Pacifier’ incident. This time, Judge Merryday sentenced 42-year-old Benjamin McKenzie to four years in federal prison. McKenzie, a Largo resident with an array of misdemeanors from years past, will be on supervision for 20 years after he completes his prison sentence.
McKenzie joined dozens of pedophiles in the Playpen case after he pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography. Even though the Playpen members last accessed the site in 2015 when the FBI decided they no longer wanted to run a child abuse site, the prosecution waited until late 2017 to make a deal with McKenzie. He pleaded guilty to child pornography in exchange for a four year prison sentence and 20 years on government supervision.
The United States Attorney’s Office did not mention any credit for time served. The Board of Prisons does not offer parole. Unless the BOP allows McKenzie to enter RDAP (a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program in federal prison), or decides that he is eligible for compassionate release, the 42-year-old will spend the entirety of his sentence in prison. (He will likely get out in less than four years, though. Federal inmates only serve 85 percent of any sentence greater than one year and one day.) If Judge Merryday offered time served, McKenzie could spend only two years in prison. Despite receiving such a short sentence, the finalization of the case marks another win for the Department of Justice.
The DOJ struggled to convict in some of the first cases against Playpen members. The government faced lawyers who knew the FBI acted illegally. The case attracted the attention of even the general public. And that attention, in turn, sparked debates on the legality of the FBI’s globally deployed malware and called into question the ethics behind the FBI’s secret ownership of the child abuse site. The DOJ dropped all charges against one suspect, including charges related to the photos and videos stored on his hard drives. They wrote that keeping their Tor exploit a secret would ultimately be worth more than convicting the man. Other members, like David Tippens, managed to get all the evidence against him dropped (the evidence gathered as a result of the FBI’s hack. He received a six month sentence. He walked out of the courtroom since he had already spent more than six months in jail.
For several months now, judges have been passing sentences down to Playpen members on a weekly basis without any friction whatsoever.