A Weston man has pleaded guilty to federal child pornography charges involving young children whom he knew.
Thomas Edler, 49, admitted that he possessed and distributed up to 150 images of child pornography during a hearing Monday in federal court in Fort Lauderdale.
Edler, dressed in blue jail scrubs, trembled visibly and sounded nervous and emotional during his court hearing.
When asked if he was pleading guilty because he actually committed the crimes, Edler said, "Yes, Your Honor, I am."
Agents from Homeland Security Investigations were trying to track down a boy about 5 years old who appeared in a series of child pornography images that were shared online when they discovered about a year ago that the photographs were taken in Edler's backyard in 2001 or 2002 and that the victim was a family friend, court records show.
Edler admitted in an interview with agents that he had also taken pornographic photographs of other children —male and female — over a period of 10 years or more. Later, agents determined that Edler's victims included children in South and Central Florida, as well as in the Northeast.
Federal prosecutors agreed to recommend a prison term of 10 years, followed by another 10 years of supervised release. Edler must also register as a sex offender when he gets out of prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Corey Steinberg told U.S. District Judge Robin Rosenbaum that the victims will all write letters to the judge to explain how they have been affected. Edler is scheduled for sentencing on May 9.
Edler's lawyer, Howard Schumacher, said his client regrets what he did and is remorseful for hurting his family and the victims. "He hopes this will be an important step toward healing everyone."
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