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Lemon Grove man convicted on child porn charges

SAN DIEGO – A San Diego County resident was one of two men convicted Thursday in federal court in Pennsylvania of child exploitation crimes, including conspiracy to receive or distribute child pornography and aiding and abetting the receipt or distribution of child pornography.

Dylan Heatherly, 34 from Lemon Grove, was found guilty along with 57-year-old Kentucky resident William Staples, according to the Department of Justice.

A sentencing date has not been set.

According to trial evidence, between April 11, 2014, and May 11, 2016, Staples, Heatherly and 12 co-conspirators located in different states worked together and with others to create a secure space on a video conferencing website where like-minded individuals could regularly live-stream videos of child pornography of prepubescent children, some as young as infants, to each other in an effort to minimize any evidence of such child pornography being located on their individual devices.

In addition to streaming pre-recorded videos of child pornography, on July 22, 2015, an undercover Toronto police detective constable observed a 6-year-old child being sexually abused live via video conference for everyone in the secure space to see.

Many individuals commented on and encouraged the sexual abuse of the child in real time, authorities said. The following day, law enforcement rescued the child and arrested co-conspirator William Augusta, who had been sexually abusing the child.

In May 2016, 15 people were charged in an 18-count superseding indictment by a grand jury in the Middle District of Pennsylvania with multiple child exploitation charges, many of which related to 14 co-conspirators’ involvement in using the video conferencing website to produce, distribute and/or receive child pornography. Twelve of the defendants pleaded guilty prior to trial.

The remaining defendant, 69-year-old Bruce Edgecombe of Harvard, Illinois, died before his case went to trial.