Wilmington Fire Department union leader sentenced for child porn

Betsy Price Headlines, Police & Fire

 

A Wilmington firefighter and union president will go to jail for possessing child pornography. Photo by Sora Shimazaki of Pexels

 

A former union president of the Wilmington Fire Department has been sentenced to 60 months in prison after pleading guilty to possessing child pornography.

Joseph J. Leonetti Jr. also was given five years of supervised release after he completes his sentence by Chief Judge Colm F. Connolly on Wednesday.

According to public documents, law enforcement officers seized Leonetti’s personal cell phone June 19, 2020, and found videos and cached images of child pornography. A cache is a storage location that collects temporary data for easy retrieval.

Investigators also found that Leonetti had deleted evidence from his phone when he saw law enforcement arrive at his house, a press release said. He deleted the Kik application–a messenger and group chat application that Leonetti had used to chat in a group dedicated to pedophilia and onto which Leonetti had uploaded a video of child pornography, a press release said.

In the cellphone’s “Notes” application, investigators found links to folders associated with cloud-based file storage services Dropbox and Mega.  The contents of some of these links contained additional child pornography.

The child pornography found on the defendant’s cellphone and in the linked folders included depictions of prepubescent minors engaged in various sexual acts and the lascivious exhibition of their genitals, the press release said.

Leonetti retired from his firefighter’s post in early 2021. In published news reports, he blamed post-traumatic stress syndrome for his addiction to porn, saying it began after a woman and her grandchild were killed in a fire not long after the department lost three firefighters on the job.

In a press release, U.S. Attorney David C. Weiss said his office is committed to protecting children, without regard to the occupation or power of the wrongdoer.

“Mr. Leonetti, while in a position of trust as a firefighter and union president for the Wilmington Fire Department, possessed sexually explicit photographs and videos of prepubescent children,” said Brian A. Michael, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations, Philadelphia.

He pointed out that even though Leonetti will go to jail, “the lives of these children have been tragically impacted by the defendants’ actions. No sentence will reverse the physical and mental abuse that they have endured. “

Homeland Security investigated the case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Graham L. Robinson prosecuted it.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the  epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. It was launched in May 2006 by the U.S. Department of Justice.  Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices  and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Department of Justice, the project marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, and to identify and rescue victims.

For more on the project, go to www.justice.gov/psc.

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