A Bay St. Louis man told federal agents he had surfed the Internet for child erotica and downloaded pictures and videos, a court document said. Nevertheless, he has pleaded not guilty on child pornography charges.
Peter Skladzien was a contract worker in information technology at NASA when federal agents arrested him in Houston in February. He was preparing to board a plane destined for Thailand, a country federal agents say is “a sexual tourism destination.”
Skladzien, 57, entered his plea in U.S. District Court on Friday. He faces trial on two counts of child pornography. The allegations involve 3,504 pictures and 11 videos found on three of his seven home computers, according an affidavit filed in Gulfport by Homeland Security Investigations Special Agent Brent Druery.
The pictures and videos were sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. In September, the NCMEC reported it had identified 325 pictures of 51 known child victims of sexual exploitation, the agent said.
After Skladzien’s arrest, another 12,000 images allegedly were found in a probe of his home and office computers and were sent to the NCMEC.
HSI began investigating Skladzien over a suspicious trip he made to Thailand in April 2016.
NASA’s Office of Inspector General found a work email confirming he had made the trip, and examined his home computers for evidence of sexual exploitation of children, Druery wrote.
The affidavit says Skladzien gave NASA security officers two different reasons for going to Thailand in 2016. One was to visit his girlfriend.
Federal agents say Skladzien used a PayPal account while in Thailand to view sexually explicit web cam “shows” involving children.
The OIG found Skladzien had about 5.3 terabytes of storage on his computers, which had files dated from December 7, 2011, to May 23, 2015, Druery said.
Skladzien allegedly told federal agents he liked to look at children in “sexy outfits” and “sexy clothes,” but said it was “just by circumstance” that he noticed child pornography. He reportedly said he had viewed child erotica sites about 20 times in 2014 and 2015, and was aroused “a little bit,” but couldn’t allow himself to keep looking at the web sites.
He is held with no bond pending trial. A tentative trial date is set for May 15.