Judge Notes Child Porn Producer's "Horrific" Life Before Granting Punishment Break

Tucker's image captured in child porn created in 2001
Tucker's image captured in child porn created in 2001

It's not often that a manufacturer of child pornography can win unscheduled, private time with a judge in the middle of a sentencing hearing, but Letha Montemayor Tucker isn't your typical smut producer.

Fourteen years ago in Southern California, Tucker--then known as "Butterfly" in the sex trade industry because of a tattoo--and an unknown, middle-aged male created graphic sexual images of an approximately 11 or 12-year-old girl who'd been given crack cocaine in a Los Angeles County apartment.

Those pictures were distributed on the Internet, a place where U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney said today "sick individuals" can continue to view them.

It took federal law enforcement agents a dozen years to study clues in the images collected by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and to locate Tucker, a lifelong prostitute and methamphetamine abuser who nowadays looks at least two decades older than her 55 years on the planet.

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In the images, Tucker--under the control of violent pimps most of her life--can be seen performing cunnilingus on the naked girl while the missing male John Doe used her for sexual intercourse.

She also sold the minor--who may or may not know her images were distributed around the world--to anonymous men for money.

Today's sentencing hearing inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse wasn't supposed to contain any surprises because in a previously enacted guilty plea agreement both the U.S. Department of Justice and Tucker accepted a 72-month prison term--significantly less than the 120-month term suggested for the sex crime in sentencing guidelines.

At the outset of the hearing, Los Angeles-based federal public defenders Koren L. Bell and Anne Hwang asked Judge Carney to block the media from observing the entire session so that the defendant could relay supposedly "confidential" information to him.

Carney--a 2003 George W. Bush appointee--initially declined, but later did toss out a Weekly and a City News Service reporter for about half of the 50-minute hearing so that Tucker could place something on the record she didn't want the public to know.

Usually, child porn producers aren't granted such sentencing perks, but Carney was sympathetic because the wheelchair-bound defendant's life now includes major medical ailments as well as post traumatic stress disorder and seizures.

"The crime committed here was a terrible and horrific one," he said. "But I'm very saddened to learn of the horrific sexual and physical abuse the defendant has suffered for decades in her life. It's just incomprehensible to me."

Carney praised Bell and Hwang for their "compassionate" defense work and then turned to the prosecutor.

"You are not soft on crime especially crime dealing with sexual offenses involving minors," the judge told Assistant United States Attorney Anthony Michael Brown before "commending" him for "having the moral courage to" not insist on the mandatory minimum sentence that would have added at least four more years to the punishment. "Mrs. Tucker has been a victim all her life and you recognized that."

Bell then won removal of the reporters. When we were allowed back inside 21 minutes later, Tucker was heavily breathing; her face--one unable to mask the obvious signs of extensive meth abuse--was red and wet from crying.

Nothing the defendant said during the closed hearing segment changed the 72-month punishment, which will include supervised probation of five years upon release from prison, public sex offender registration, restrictions on being in the presence of minors and the inability to use a computer or electronic device without the knowledge of federal agents.

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Email: rscottmoxley@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @RScottMoxley.


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