Man who raped, abused 20 children gets life in federal prison

A Hawthorne man who used his access to children through babysitting and day-care jobs to sexually abuse 20 young victims, including infants, was sentenced Friday to life in federal prison without parole.

Arlan Wesley Harrell, 27, pleaded guilty July 7 to engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, obtaining custody of a minor for purposes of producing child pornography, production of child pornography and possession of child pornography, according to the US attorney’s office for the Central District of California.

“Defendant is horror incarnate,” prosecutors wrote in a 43-page sentencing memo filed Thursday. “There is no way to ensure the community could ever be safe from defendant other than lifetime imprisonment.”

Harrell’s victims ranged from infants to 9 years old, prosecutors said. Nine of the victims were 4 years old or younger. Ten others were 7 years old or younger.

He photographed and filmed his numerous acts of rape and child sex abuse, and shared them to a forum on the dark web where other pedophiles posted and traded the horrific content, according to the sentencing memo.

“Defending abused children that he babysat, he abused children who attended [redacted] daycare and he abused children while chaperoning a school trip,” prosecutors wrote. “He abused [redacted] he had known since their birth and he abused children he had just met. Every child he encountered was in danger from him, and unfortunately, he encountered many.”

According to prosecutors, Harrell joined the forum around Feb. 12, 2016, and made roughly 155 posts.

On his first day posting to the site, he said he had a large amount of child sex abuse material that he’d been creating for an extended period of time, and he said he would post often.

“I just wanted to say Hi to the first fully functioning baby/tot community that I have ever come across since I have been on the web,” he wrote in the post. “I look forward to chatting with you all around the boards and seeing some nice additions to the pedophile community.”

Harrell puts two men who are now codefendants in the case on that forum, where they bonded over the fact that they all sexually abused children in their care, prosecutors said.

His relationship with the men, 28-year-old John Brinson Jr. and 31-year-old Moises Martinez, extended beyond the dark web; the three met in person, where they would share children in their care and abuse them together, prosecutors said.

“Defendant destroyed multiple families through his rampant and brazen abuse of those he was supposed to care for and protect,” according to the memo. “Having even one child abused in the way defendant violated his victims is too many — but 20 victims is hard to even conceive.”

In addition to repeated rape and abuse, Harris also subjected most of his victims to a “lifetime of horror” by posting photos and video of his acts to the dark web, where they will circulate forever, prosecutors wrote.

“Defendant is evil in a way most people cannot even imagine,” they wrote.

Prosecutors said Harrell, Brinson and Martinez accessed the dark web forum though the Tor browser.

The software allows users to mask their identities online and is necessary to access the dark web. It is popular among activists, dissidents and journalists, but is also used by those who wish to mask their criminal activities.

In addition to posting child sexual abuse material to the dark web forum, Harrell gained custody of a child and took the child to Brinson’s house in Fresno, where the men created sexual abuse material with that child and two others, prosecutors said.

Harrell was arrested in May 2017 and remained in custody since, prosecutors said.

Martinez, a San Jose resident, pleaded guilty in 2019 to engaging in a child exploitation enterprise and production of child pornography, prosecutors said. He was sentenced in September 2021 to 55 years in prison, followed by lifetime supervised release.

Brinson pleaded guilty in July 2021 to engaging in a child exploitation enterprise and production of child pornography, prosecutors said. He is scheduled to be sentenced April 22.

A fourth co-defendant, Keith Lawniczak, 57, of Fresno, pleaded guilty in late 2019 to conspiracy to commit child sex trafficking, prosecutors said. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release in August 2020.

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