Any time the news media run a story about a person being accused of downloading or distributing child pornography, the general public is upset. But even more concerning is when the person accused is someone who regularly has access to children: a day care worker, a teacher, or a foster parent, for example.
Such is the case with the arrest of a Tulsa man who recently worked as a respite caregiver for foster families.
The OSBI began an investigation last month after an agent discovered images of child pornography on a peer-to-peer file sharing network and traced the IP address sharing the images to a Tulsa home.
Agents served a search warrant at the home of Timothy Paul Cheatwood,44. The man allegedly admitted to using his computer to download and share images of child pornography. He was arrested and booked into the Tulsa County Jail on complaints of possession and distribution of child pornography and violation of the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act.
After investigators discovered that their suspect provided respite foster care through an agency that contracts with Oklahoma DHS, they have asked foster parents who may have used Cheatwood for respite care to contact authorities through the OSBI hotline at 1-800-522-8017. Although law enforcement has asked foster families to contact them, the suspect at this time is not accused of sexually abusing any children. However, given the nature of the allegations against him and his access to children as a temporary caregiver, agents are investigating all possibilities.
Respite care is a program that allows foster parents to take a brief break from the struggles that often accompany foster care. Through the program, a respite caregiver watches and cares for the foster children for a few hours, a day, or even overnight. The suspect in this case was employed by an agency that contracts with DHS to provide respite care for foster families. He was employed by the agency from September 2013 until May 2014.
Possession, production, or distribution of child pornography is a felony sex crime. Penalties of conviction include a maximum of 20 years in prison, Level 2 Sex Offender Registration (25 years), and a fine of up to $25,000. The penalties for aggravated possession of child pornography, defined as possession of 100 or more images, is punishable by life in prison.
Because downloading and distributing child pornography are often internet-facilitated crimes, a person charged with a child pornography offense will likely also be charged with violating the Oklahoma Computer Crimes Act. In 21 O.S. § 1958, state law makes it a felony to use a computer to break any Oklahoma law. Conviction is punishable by an additional 5 years in prison.
Image credit: Txopi