WEST PALM BEACH -- A 62-year-old scientist from West Palm Beach who gained fame by helping explore the sunken Titanic was sentenced to seven years in prison Thursday for downloading about 22,000 photos and images of child pornography.
William Kenneth Stewart was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kenneth L. Ryskamp in West Palm Beach Federal Court. Stewart, a former South Florida Water Management District engineer, also received 15 years of probation. He pleaded guilty in March to the charges.
Stewart had an impressive professional past, having attained his doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and went on to explore the Titanic. He also served in the U.S. Navy.
Stewart was caught downloading child porn last year after Boynton Beach police Detective Charles Ramos, while working with the South Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, came across Stewart’s IP address. Ramos downloaded four videos from the address that involved under-age girls in compromising positions.
Stewart was arrested in his West Palm Beach apartment last September while child pornographic videos streamed on his computer screen.
Stewart’s attorney, Dean Lawrence Willbur Jr., had asked Ryskamp for the minimum of five years.
In court documents, Stewart acknowledged that his acts were wrong.
“I know and admit that such conduct was illegal and more importantly wrong. . . . I accept responsibility for my actions and understand that my conduct was unacceptable. I hope that some day the people that I have affected, along with my family, my friends, and those in law enforcement who have been required to prosecute me can forgive me,” he said in a sentencing statement.
Stewart’s accomplished past was outlined in an 11-page résumé his attorney presented to the court.
After receiving his science degree with honors from Florida Atlantic University, he earned a doctorate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, then worked for the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He helped develop a remote underwater vehicle that was the prototype for the one that explored the sunken Titanic, something that Stewart did himself.