published Saturday, May 17th, 2014

Former UT Foundation head gets prison term for child porn conviction

Bruce Downsbrough, former head of the UT Foundation, was sentenced Friday in federal court in Knoxville on child porn charges.

Downsbrough was convicted of molesting two boys in the 1980s and molested two more boys, crimes for which he was never investigated. He downloaded more than 20,000 images of child pornography -- some of toddlers forced into sex acts and some with scissors poised to snip off a child's private parts. He was earning $202,000 annually as the chief operating officer of the fundraising organization for the University of Tennessee when he was arrested.

"Jail has allowed me the time to do some soul-searching and self-reflection," the 61-year-old Downsbrough told U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Varlan.

"I committed that crime. Nobody else did that. I downloaded those things."

Downsbrough assured Varlan that "jail is a horror I never ever want to experience again" and promised he will not violate the law again. He had told authorities after his arrest that he downloaded child pornography to avoid molesting children.

Downsbrough's path to introspection, however, carried little weight with Varlan, who said he was imposing a sentence designed to protect the public.

Varlan sentenced Downsbrough, who once had a law license, to 121 months in a federal facility in Englewood, Colo. Downsbrough's attorney, Philip Lomonaco, asked that Downsbrough serve his time in Colorado because he has friends and relatives in that area.

Varlan's sentence included a fine of $75,000 and supervised probation for 10 years after his release from prison. That probation includes staying away from children and known sex offenders, registering as a sex offender in Colorado where Downsbrough said he intends to live upon release, getting permission to have a device that can access the Internet and submitting to polygraph examinations to assure he is not violating conditions of his probation.

Varlan included in his order that Downsbrough pay $5,000 to each of five children identified in his pornography collection.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Morris said the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was able to identify those children from Downsbrough's pornography collection. Morris said Downsbrough offered to pay each child $5,000 restitution.

"He offered it and I presented his offer to their attorneys and they accepted it," Morris said.

Morris read portions in court of one of five victim impact statements from the identified children, which were presented to Varlan to consider for sentencing.

"Every time an image is downloaded and viewed, the victim is victimized again," Morris said.

Morris told Varlan that Downsbrough has "minimized his conduct and calls it passive."

"We can't forget this defendant has molested children before," Morris told the judge. "Yet, now he says he's starting to realize he has a problem after being in jail for a year."

Downsbrough was snared by an investigation that exposed a Toronto-based child porn distribution ring with customers worldwide.

According to the indictment, Downsbrough first downloaded pornographic images of children in December 2008. He did it again in February 2009 and in April 2012, leading to three counts of downloading child pornography.

He picked up a fourth charge for possession of child pornography after a forensic examination of his computer.

Federal officers raided Downsbrough's home in November 2012 and confiscated a computer and 19 disks. Authorities found more than 20,000 images of sadistic and masochistic and other violent behavior involving children under age 12, records state. Some victims appeared to be toddlers.

Downsbrough was fired from his position as the chief operating officer and executive vice president of the UT Foundation two days after his May 28, 2013, arrest. He launched his career at UT in 2003 and was named executive vice president in 2010.

Downsbrough on October 30, 2013, pleaded guilty to one of three counts of receiving child pornography and to the one offense of possessing a computer disk with images of child pornography.

He has been in jail since his arrest.

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