A former Long Beach police officer who pleaded guilty to distributing child sexual abuse material was sentenced Monday to nearly six years in prison.
Anthony Brown, 57, pleaded guilty in March to one count of distribution of child pornography, federal prosecutors said. In his plea agreement, he admitted to sharing at least one image while on duty at Long Beach Airport.
His case was marred by several blunders by investigators, including when a detective called and notified him of the investigation more than a year before his arrest in February 2021.
The case came to the attention of Long Beach police detectives in May 2020 when the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children notified the department that an account on messaging app MeWe registered to a phone number in Long Beach was being used to distribute child sexual abuse images.
From October 2019 to May 2020, Brown used the messaging app to chat about forcing a fictitious minor relative into having sex with men, according to court documents. He also shared images of children being sexually abused, according to court records.
A detective tied the number to Brown and called him to tell him his account was being used to share sex-abuse images, the Long Beach Post reported.
Det. Laurie Barajas reportedly told Brown that she would drop the case, but if there were any other complaints she would pursue criminal charges. Prosecutors said this gave Brown the chance to delete evidence from his phone.
Barajas told federal investigators she wasn’t aware that Brown was a police officer until after their phone conversation, according to court records. Police said Barajas’ call was “consistent with historical investigative best practices at the time,” the Post reported.
A spokesperson for the Long Beach Police Department told the Post that under new department policy, detectives would no longer call suspects in an ongoing investigation.
Brown, who worked for the Long Beach Police Department for nearly 27 years, remained an officer for months after the investigation began, until he was suspended without pay upon his arrest. He was allowed to file for retirement with a pension shortly after his arrest, according to the Long Beach Post.
In addition to the sentence of 70 months in federal prison, Brown was ordered to pay a fine of $15,000 and will be placed on lifetime supervised release, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Central District of California.
Brown now lives in Island, Ky., and his attorney, Howard Price, expects him to surrender to serve his prison term in October.
Price called the sentence disappointing and said charges were pursued only because Brown was an officer.
“The fact that he was a police officer is something that clearly is inappropriate, but the distinction is that his criminal conduct occurred not as a police officer but while being a police officer,” Price said. “In other words, he didn’t use his position as a police officer to commit a crime.”
The Long Beach Police Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.