Child porn nets
jail term

Former bank executive
David G. Zerfoss gets
18 months in prison

A former bank executive was sentenced yesterday to 18 months in federal prison for possessing child pornography, followed by three years of supervised release.

David G. Zerfoss, 58, who retired from Bank of Hawaii in February 2003 after 34 years as its chief investment officer, could have faced at least 27 months under federal sentencing guidelines that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week were unconstitutional.

Zerfoss is believed to be the first person in Hawaii to benefit from the High Court ruling that made federal sentencing guidelines in place for nearly two decades advisory but no longer mandatory, said his attorney, Victor Bakke.

Zerfoss declined to comment as he left the federal courthouse late yesterday flanked by family and friends. In court, he expressed remorse for his conduct and vowed never to do it again. He also said he came to realize that he contributed to the children's victimization by his conduct.

Bakke, who suggested a sentence of between four to 10 months, said his client is relieved the court did not bind itself to the guideline range of 27 to 33 months.

Had Zerfoss been sentenced a week or two earlier, Chief U.S. District Judge David Ezra could not have gone any lower than 27 months, particularly because the Protect Act passed by Congress last year gave no room for departure from the guidelines in child sex abuse cases, Bakke said.

Noting that the courts are always concerned about recidivism, Ezra said he believed it is unlikely Zerfoss would revert to his previous behavior because of rehabilitation he has undergone since entering his plea.

Zerfoss pleaded guilty in April to one count of possessing child pornography downloaded from the Internet.

In a computer and hard drive seized from Zerfoss' home in December 2003, investigators found 13 movies and 19 photos of exploited children engaging in sexually explicit conduct. They also found evidence on the computer history log that child pornography sites had been accessed just the morning and night before, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Larry Tong.

Tong argued that 27 months was appropriate given Zerfoss had been seeking out and viewing child pornography habitually in the two years before federal and state agents executed a warrant on his Makiki home.

While Zerfoss does not dispute that what he did was immoral and illegal, he is not a child molester, said Bakke, arguing that 27 months was too severe.

Tong objected to the defense's characterization of Zerfoss' conduct as a harmless proclivity for viewing child pornography in the privacy of one's home. "This is not about pictures. It's about exploitation of children," Tong said.

While Zerfoss is not accused of molesting children or producing child pornography, he contributed to the industry by creating a demand for them -- viewing the images and paying $30 to $60 monthly subscriptions to access these Web sites, Tong said.

Well known in the banking industry, Zerfoss was wooed out of retirement by Central Pacific Bank in June 2003 and was a senior vice president and head of its investment department when federal agents seized his computer and hard drive.

Zerfoss was ordered to pay a $25,000 fine within a month. He must turn himself in to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons on March 14.

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