Child and bestiality porn defendant suddenly ends San Antonio trial by pleading guilty
A Seguin man caught in an investigation of the world’s largest child pornography site unexpectedly pleaded guilty as his trial in San Antonio neared its end.
Andrew Morgan Weathers, 35, had blamed his stepson for downloading child porn from “Playpen,” a site on the dark web. The FBI shut it down in 2015 as part of an international investigation and learned that at its peak, it had some 150,000 users worldwide.
Prosecution evidence that included detailed testimony about images an FBI task force found on his computer that included child porn, bestiality and “scat” — sex involving excrement — were apparently too much to bear, and Weathers threw in the towel late Tuesday afternoon.
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He pleaded guilty to receiving child porn and possessing it. U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez ordered Weathers taken into custody immediately. Sentencing was set for March 6.
Weathers was one of a handful of defendants charged in the San Antonio area after they were identified as visitors or users of the Playpen site, which used layers of servers, some outside the country, to disguise the originating server and keep visitors anonymous.
But a mistake by the administrators of the site gave agents the location of the originating server, and after obtaining a warrant, the FBI gained control of the site for two weeks and used computer technology to identify each users’ internet protocol site before shutting down Playpen.
Agents testified that they were able to identify Weathers as a user, and in statements to agents, Weathers confessed, and even told them that he turned to child porn on Playpen and others to fend off urges to sexually assault children. He also told them where he had stored some of the child porn on his home computer, under a folder titled after a video game, “Zelda,” according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Tracy Thompson and Bexar County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Allovio, who retired from the FBI but still serves on an FBI task force that investigates child exploitation cases.
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“We didn’t rely just on his statements,” Thompson said. “The forensic examination (of his computer) confirmed what he had said in the statements.”
During opening statements Monday, Weathers’ lead lawyer, David Sergi, told jurors that Weathers falsely confessed to protect a juvenile who downloaded the child porn.
“It’s shameful to blame a child for your illegal behavior,” Thompson said.
Guillermo Contreras covers federal court and immigration news in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read him on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | firstname.lastname@example.org | Twitter: @gmaninfedland