Juvenile Justice

Published — July 13, 2012 Updated — May 19, 2014 at 12:19 pm ET

Child sex abuse: A North Dakota agent shines compared to Penn State negligence

U.S. Justice Department says agent’s great work rescued children from on-camera molestation


The Penn State child sexual-abuse scandal suggests, once again, that institutions intoxicated by power and celebrity will go to great lengths to protect their own — even at the risk of grave harm to children.

You can read the independent task-force report on the university’s assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky yourself.

In contrast, as U.S. Justice Department officials pointed out in May, there are adults who are far less well known than Penn State’s educators who deserve credit for actually doing their jobs and rescuing children from exploitation.

In North Dakota, Tim Erickson, an agent with the North Dakota Bureau of Special Investigations, is credited with chasing down a tip from Australian law enforcement about a possible international Internet child-porn ring. Erickson’s tenacity, justice officials said, ultimately led to the rescue of young children who were sexually abused on camera in the United States and Canada.

Acting on the Australian tip, Erickson and other agents in 2010 were led to Christian Robert Webb, the technology administrator of a North Dakota school district. Agents seized more than 40 webcam images of children being sexually abused that had been downloaded into Webb’s archives.

Erickson pushed a six-month investigation, discovering the identities of the adults who were responsible for setting up these videos. Agents, to date, have arrested six people in six states and in Canada. At Webb’s sentencing in North Dakota in 2011, a federal judge sentenced the former school district employee to 12 years in prison for receiving images of children as they were being sexually molested, according to the Bismarck Tribune.

The Tribune reported that U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hovland called the case “one of the most disturbing” child pornography cases he’d seen. “Webb admitted to watching via webcam as people sexually molested children, often directing the abuse via chat,” the newspaper reported.

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