CHARLOTTE — U.S. District Judge Kenneth D. Bell sentenced Thomas Arthur Rittenhouse, 76, of Bamboo Road, Boone, to 20 years in prison on July 16 for child pornography charges, according to Andrew Murray, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
In addition to the prison term imposed, Rittenhouse was ordered to a lifetime of supervised release and to register as a sex offender, the U.S. attorney’s office stated.
According to evidence presented at Rittenhouse’s trial and the July 16 sentencing hearing, Rittenhouse used peer-to-peer computer networks to obtain dozens of videos depicting children being sexually abused between 2014 and 2017. The U.S. Attorney’s office stated that Rittenhouse also made the child abuse videos available for download by other users of the peer-to-peer network.
Evidence presented at trial established that Rittenhouse specifically used search terms associated with child abuse material to seek out such videos and images, and then shared those images with others, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. A forensic analysis of the devices that belonged to Rittenhouse revealed that he possessed more than 60 videos and 74 images depicting the sexual abuse of children, including adult men sexually abusing prepubescent children.
According to court records, Rittenhouse also told law enforcement that he had downloaded and deleted more than 1,000 child pornography files in the previous 15 years.
In December 2019, a federal jury convicted Rittenhouse of two counts of transportation of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. He is currently in federal custody and will be transferred to the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility.
Rittenhouse has a criminal history in Oklahoma, where he was convicted of a 1963 murder of a sheriff’s deputy and served approximately 14 years of a life sentence before being paroled, according to Boone Police. He was arrested by the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office in March 2018 on a warrant on a possession of a firearm by a felon charge. According to court records, this charge was dismissed in 2018 because Rittenhouse had been indicted in federal court.
Murray commended the Boone Police Department and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation for their investigation of this case, and thanked Homeland Security Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their assistance.
Assistant United States Attorney Alfredo DeLaRosa prosecuted the case for the United States.￼￼
According to the U.S. attorney’s office, this case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood — a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. The initiate was launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice, and is led by U.S. attorneys’ offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section.
Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.