A former Miami firefighter could be spending the prime of his life in prison after a federal jury found him guilty of downloading videos of child pornography at his station.
Alexander Rousseau denied on the witness stand that he was responsible for downloading the videos of young girls engaged in sexual acts, but the 12-person Miami jury apparently did not believe him at his trial last week.
Rousseau, 30, could face between 20 and 30 years in prison at his sentencing on Sept. 24, because of the numerous videos found on his laptop computer of prepubescent girls engaged in explicit sexual activity.
U.S. District Judge Michael Moore might also find that he obstructed justice by committing perjury during his testimony, which would lengthen his sentence.
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Rousseau, who joined Miami Fire Rescue in 2007, was convicted of six counts of receiving and possessing the videos on his laptop at Miami fire station No. 6, where he was assigned. Rousseau, who was arrested in April while on duty at the fire station on the corner of Northwest 36th Street and Seventh Avenue, has been detained without bond at the Federal Detention Center in downtown Miami.
“Obviously, Mr. Rousseau and his family are very disappointed in the jury’s verdict,” his defense attorney, Joel DeFabio, said Monday. “Now we need to concentrate on minimizing his prison term under the sentencing guidelines, which are excessively punitive.”
Rousseau’s type of cyber-crime has become increasingly common in the internet age, with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies teaming up to root out child-porn offenders through surveillance, chat rooms and sting operations. Perhaps the most notorious offender in recent memory was South Florida’s past special agent in charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Anthony Mangione, whose career, ironically, was built in part on investigating Internet crimes against children.
Punishment for such offenses has been recognized as especially harsh, drawing criticism from the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which establishes guidelines for judges and advises Congress on penalties.
“Although still only a small percentage of the overall federal caseload [nationwide], child pornography prosecutions have grown significantly during the past decade and now account for nearly 2,000 federal cases each year,” the commission noted in a 2013 report.
“Several penalty enhancements in the guidelines for child pornography offenses, such as use of a computer, now apply to typical offenders,” the report said. “As a result, prison sentences for defendants convicted of federal child pornography offenses have almost doubled in the last decade to approximately five years for possession and 11 years for receipt and distribution.”
The FBI uncovered Rousseau’s unlawful activity last December, when an agent found a computer on the ARES peer-to-peer (P2P) sharing network with folders containing suspected images of child pornography, according to a criminal complaint. An FBI agent identified the computer’s Internet Protocol address and downloaded eight files of suspected child-porn videos.
A law enforcement database check showed that the targeted Internet Protocol address had been spotted on the ARES P2P file-sharing network since June of last year. Most of the time the computer accessed ARES after 8 p.m., often after 10 p.m., and ended before 4 am.
The FBI agent then learned that the account was registered with Comcast Communications, the Internet service provider. With a subpoena, the agent pinpointed the physical address of the subscriber, which led to Miami fire station No. 6.
With a search warrant, federal agents and Miami police found a laptop computer at the station: an Acer Aspire.
The laptop “was on and running on the bed in one of the individual sleeping quarters for the employees,” the complaint said. The file sharing program “running on the laptop, including a list of active downloads in progress at that moment.” A wallet containing Alexander Rousseau’s Florida driver’s license was found on a table next to the bed where the laptop was sitting.
That discovery led FBI agents to Rousseau, who was listed as working at the fire station on all of the dates and times when the Internet Protocol address had accessed the file-sharing network.
According to the criminal complaint, the videos portrayed girls under 12 engaged in graphic sexual activity with adult males.
At the fire station, Rousseau agreed to be interviewed after waiving his Miranda rights, according to the criminal complaint.
“Although he did not admit to searching for the videos, he admitted that he had downloaded and viewed some of them,” the criminal complaint said.