Longtime Aspen caterer O’Grady sentenced in child pornography case
5-year prison sentence comes after investigators found more than 1 million images on man’s electronic devices
A longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident was sentenced Wednesday to five years in the Colorado Department of Corrections after pleading guilty earlier this year to sexual exploitation of a child by video.
Peter O’Grady, 70, of Missouri Heights, was found to have more than 1 million pictures and video files of children on his computers and other electronic devices, according to Johnny Lombardi, a prosecutor with the Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office.
Lombardi labeled O’Grady’s crime as “heinous.” Julia Stancil, O’Grady’s attorney, countered that O’Grady is a man with an addiction who realizes he needs treatment.
Lombardi said investigators told him this was the “most extensive case they have ever seen.”
“A lot of people think that these types of cases, because this is classified as a non-touching sexual offense, that there are no victims. Well, there are,” Lombardi said during the sentencing hearing. “Every time a file was downloaded containing child pornography there’s a victim involved. It’s the minor that’s depicted in those photographs. So if you look at it, we’ve got between 1 million and 2 million victims.”
Lombardi had said in an earlier hearing that O’Grady was found with more than 800,000 images of child pornography. He clarified Wednesday that investigators kept finding more images and videos while spending more than a month examining the electronic devices.
People like O’Grady create the demand for child pornography that continues the exploitation of minors, Lombardi said.
Stancil said O’Grady has owned up to his addiction and “accepted how wrong his behavior is.” Since his arrest in June, he has started attending Sexaholics Anonymous and sought individual therapy.
“There are numerous studies that discuss how child pornography really starts with an addiction to pornography,” Stancil said. “The pornography industry is much like alcohol, much like drugs. It is so prolific and offers so many serotonin hits to the brain that it changes the brain. When the brain doesn’t get enough of the serotonin hits, many people find themselves addicted and continue to look at racier and racier images and go down the rabbit hole.”
She noted that 40 people “in the community” wrote letters of support for O’Grady, who has a catering business in Aspen and has been involved in numerous civic endeavors over the years.
“They say resoundingly that this is a generous man who is always professional in public, always appropriate, that he has given so much to the community in terms of his charitable giving,” Stancil said. Many of the letter writers said they were shocked to learn that he was viewing child pornography because that was not a part of O’Grady that they knew, Stancil added.
She said O’Grady was evaluated for a pre-sentencing report and found to be “low risk” for committing sexual offenses and eligible for probation. “There is no reason” he should go to prison, Stancil argued, except the DA’s office required it as part of the plea agreement.
Lombardi said O’Grady stipulated to the five-year Department of Corrections sentence in return for a pledge by state prosecutors that they wouldn’t turn the case over to the federal government for prosecution. If O’Grady were convicted on federal child pornography charges, he would face a 10- to 20-year sentence with no possibility of parole, according to Lombardi.
In a brief statement read in court, O’Grady said he realized the youth he viewed were victims of a crime. He apologized for his behavior and said he was “deeply ashamed.” He also apologized to his wife for bringing shame to the household.
“I also want to apologize and express my remorse to the community, as well, as this has brought a great deal of consternation to so many,” O’Grady said.
He concluded by saying his time in prison would allow him to reflect on how to move forward and become a productive member of the community again.
Eagle County District Judge Paul Dunkelman said it would not be appropriate for him to decide on a sentence different from the stipulated term of five years. He said the case is difficult to understand because it unveiled a side of O’Grady that no one knew.
“There are obviously decisions Peter O’Grady could have made along the way somehow and today never should have happened, but it did,” Dunkelman said at the hearing. “There’s no wisdom I have, no words of healing for the victims, no words of healing for anybody. And sometimes that is just the way it is.”
In addition to five years in prison, O’Grady will face a three-year mandatory parole period and he must register as a sex offender.
O’Grady was allowed to hug his wife after the hearing and then was taken to Eagle County Jail, where he will await assignment to a state facility.
A civil deputy kept her job and was mandated to undergo counseling after Aspen police arrested her in July on suspicion of driving under the influence and reckless driving.
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