Foster Parent Pleads Guilty In Child Porn Case
By Ron Wood
THE MORNING NEWS, Thursday July 26, 2007
FAYETTEVILLE -- A Bella Vista man pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to having sexual contact with foster children in his care and filming the encounters.
Brian John Bergthold, 45, admitted to producing child pornography and transporting child pornography in Arkansas earlier this year and to producing child pornography in Oregon in 2000. The Oregon case was transferred to the Western District of Arkansas so they could all be handled at once.
U.S. District Judge Jimm Larry Hendren accepted Bergthold's pleas. Bergthold's voice was firm, calm and matter-of-fact as he entered three guilty pleas and talked with the judge about details of his plea agreement. His arms remained behind his back with hands clasped.
Bergthold will not be sentenced until federal probation officials complete a pre-sentencing report. That could come within 30 to 45 days but, because of the Oregon charge, it may take longer.
Bergthold also forfeited his house in Bella Vista. Prosecutors initiated the forfeiture proceeding because Bergthold used the house to make videos of minors involved in sex acts.
Prosecutors declined to discuss specifics of the case Thursday.
State and federal officials began investigating Bergthold in February after a boy in his care filed a complaint Bergthold sexually abused him. Bergthold allegedly plied the children with alcohol.
State charges are pending as investigators interview more children who were placed in foster care with Bergthold by the state.
Federal investigators say they found a tape of a 15-year-old boy being directed by Bergthold to engage in explicit sexual conduct. Bergthold is also shown in the video molesting the boy, according to prosecutors. Police also found tapes of other apparent minors engaged in sexual conduct during a search of Bergthold's home at 2 Ealing Circle in Bella Vista.
Prosecutors say while in Oregon he shot video as he directed a 17-year-old boy and a 14-year-old girl as they had intercourse, then he touched the boy sexually.
Bergthold waived grand jury indictment. The charges against him are based on information provided by the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Federal sentencing guidelines call for Bergthold to spend a minimum of 15 years behind bars. He could get as much as 70 years. Fines could reach $250,000 in each case and there's probation upon release that could be from five years to the rest of his life.
There is no parole or early release in the federal system. Time given is the time served.
Probation officials are expected to advise the court on whether the sentences can run consecutively or have to run concurrently.
Bergthold was denied bond and will remain in federal custody while awaiting sentencing.
Bergthold was a foster parent in Arkansas for about two years. He kept about 30 boys between ages 9 and 17 at his home during that time, according to police.
Bergthold, who is single, qualified as a foster parent and passed several criminal background checks, according to officials with the state Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the foster care program.
Brian Bergthold's case was handled by federal authorities because materials used to produce the pornographic videos were circulated in interstate commerce. Bergthold also transported pornographic videos from Oregon to Arkansas.