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Ex-Md. commerce official pleads guilty to distributing child porn

A former Maryland Department of Commerce official pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal charge of distributing child pornography and could face at least five years in prison.

According to the plea, Mathew Palmer distributed a pornographic video and photographs of at least four girls via cellphone. The phone, seized in a search warrant of Palmer’s Severna Park home in August, contained at least 936 images and 368 videos of child pornography, including prepubescent children and toddlers and youngsters involved in bondage and other sadistic acts, the Maryland U.S. attorney’s office stated.

The agreement requires Palmer to register as a sex offender, the office added.

“The exploitation of children is a serious threat and problem that has grown over the course of the pandemic,” acting Maryland U.S. Attorney Jonathan Lenzner said in a statement. “Individuals like Palmer who trade and possess this illegal material online are essentially facilitating an underground criminal market. This case should be a reminder that law enforcement will pursue anyone who endangers children, and that no one is above the law.”

Palmer’s attorney, David B. Irwin, said Tuesday afternoon that his client “accepted responsibility today for the charge and he is working hard on the issues that brought him to court.”

Irwin is of counsel at Kramon & Graham PA in Towson.

Palmer had worked for Gov. Larry Hogan, first as his deputy legislative officer and more recently as chief operating officer at the Department of Commerce. Palmer, who earned a salary of $133,078, resigned his position on Aug. 12, the day after his home was searched and his phone seized.

Distribution of child pornography carries a minimum mandatory prison sentence of five years and a maximum of 20 years, the U.S. attorney’s office stated. U.S. District Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher has not scheduled a date for sentencing.

Homeland Security Investigations, the investigative arm of the federal Department of Homeland Security, was involved from the start of the investigation, the U.S. attorney’s office stated.

“No crime affects us more deeply than the sexual abuse of innocent children,” James Mancuso, HSI special agent in charge, said in a statement. “Those who trade exploitive material participate in and perpetuate that abuse. HSI will utilize all available resources and authorities to investigate and seek prosecution of those who harm and exploit children.”

The case is docketed at the U.S. District Court in Baltimore as United States of America v. Mathew Palmer, No. 1:21-cr-00014-SAG.


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