Gary Salles thanked his captors for "saving his life" before he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for transporting child pornography and methamphetamine across state lines.
"I just want to apologize to anyone I've hurt and to all members of law enforcement," Mr. Salles said Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga. "I thank them for arresting me and for saving my life."
U.S. District Judge Harry S. "Sandy" Mattice gave Mr. Salles permission to speak after a 90-minute hearing in which his defense asked that his sentence be lessened and prosecutors asked that it be lengthened.
Judge Mattice concluded Mr. Salles' sentence was justified considering the nature of his crimes.
Mr. Salles, a North Georgia resident, said being arrested in early 2009 saved him from further destroying his life through his use of drugs and distribution of child pornography.
He originally was to be sentenced last week but his defense attorney, Mary Ellen Coleman, asked to postpone the hearing a week to allow the judge more time to listen to recorded phone conversations between Mr. Salles and an undercover investigator.
The 57-year-old was arrested in a Winchester, Tenn., motel room after an undercover investigation. In May 2009, he pleaded guilty to transporting child pornography and $2,000 worth of meth across state lines.
Led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mel Schwing, the government argued in past hearings that authorities found more than 14,000 images of child pornography on Mr. Salles' computer.
After his defense attorney protested the claim, stating all but 1,000 of the images were "copies" from routine file backups, Judge Mattice said he would count more than 6,000 of the images in the case.
In Tuesday's hearing, Ms. Coleman argued that Mr. Salles was an average child pornographer and the range of his sentence was too harsh.
But Judge Mattice said the evidence showing that Mr. Salles also ran a sophisticated Web site called "bois-4men.com" was proof that he "encouraged other pedophilers to act upon their fantasies," a crime worse then the average child pornographer's.
In testimony, investigators also said Mr. Salles wanted to plan a party for which attendees would have been required to bring small boys for admittance.
During Mr. Salles' closing comments, he admitted selling drugs and distributing child pornography but not to having parties with small boys.
"I don't know any children," he said.
Ms. Coleman said she was unsure if her client would appeal the judge's sentencing decision.