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Former Maryland commerce official sentenced to 8 years for child pornography

A former state Maryland Department of Commerce official has been sentenced to eight years in federal prison and 20 years supervised release for distributing child pornography.

Mathew Palmer, 44, was sentenced today in Baltimore by U.S. District Court Judge Stephanie Gallagher. Palmer had previously pleaded guilty to one charge of distribution.

“Individuals like Palmer who trade and possess this illegal material online are essentially facilitating an underground criminal marketplace that endangers children,” said Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner.  “This case should serve as a reminder that law enforcement will bring to justice anyone who endangers children. No one is above the law.”

Palmer previously worked for Gov. Larry Hogan, first as his deputy legislative officer and more recently as chief operating officer at the Department of Commerce, where he earned a salary of $133,078. He abruptly resigned his position as chief operating officer at the Department of Commerce on August 12, one day after investigators served a search warrant at his Severna Park home.

During that raid, agents confiscated laptops and cellphones, including one state-owned phone.

The investigation linked Palmer and his home address and cellphones to five anonymous accounts on an encrypted message service. Those accounts were used to trade child pornography. The investigation also found that Palmer had accessed those accounts from networks owned by state government, according to federal prosecutors.

In all, investigators recovered explicit messages with other users related to sexual acts with underage girls. In some of those messages he lied to other users, saying the videos he was trading involved his own daughters.

More than 900 images and 368 videos of child pornography were found on Palmer’s cellphone, including prepubescent minors; child pornography involving toddlers; and child pornography involving bondage and other sadistic acts. Palmer also kept a note on his phone that included links to child pornography websites.

Palmer reached a plea agreement with prosecutors on one count of distributing a 51-second video that included the graphic rape of a young girl.

Under the agreement, Palmer could have received a minimum sentence of five years in prison or up to 20 years.

As part of the sentence, Gallagher ordered that Palmer register as a sex offender.

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