A Bay St. Louis man made two requests before a judge sentenced him to nearly 20 years in prison for having pornographic pictures of at least 51 known victims under the age of 12.
Peter Skladzien, 58, asked U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden for a second chance and said he doesn’t want to die behind bars.
“I’m a believer that people deserve a second chance,” Skladzien wrote in a letter to Ozerden.
“(I) hope you can find it in my heart to not sentence me to a term that would cause me to die in prison.”
Skaldzien admitted he was an information technology contract worker for NASA when he discovered the Dark Web and how to access hidden parts of the Internet often used for criminal activity.
Ozerden sentenced him Friday to 19 years and eight months each on two counts, to run concurrently, and ordered lifetime supervision as a convicted sex offender. Skladzien faced up to 20 years each on guilty pleas to possession of child pornography of known victims and receipt of child pornography.
Ozerden also ordered restitution of $119,500 to the known victims, who were photographed or videotaped performing sexually explicit acts, documents show.
Skladzien surfed the Internet for child erotica and downloaded more than 12,000 questionable pictures and videos over a period of at least 10 years, from Sept. 9, 2006, through Dec. 14, 2016, a Homeland Security Investigations agent has testified.
At least 325 of the images are of 51 children identified as victims of child exploitation, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children found.
Skladzien worked in information technology as a contract worker for NASA at Stennis Space Center when he was first indicted April 4. A federal grand jury filed a new indictment May 16.
The investigation began after NASA’s Office of Inspector General found that Skladzien had made a suspicious trip to Taiwan in April 2016. HSI confirmed Skladzien had used a PayPal account in Taiwan to view sexually explicit web cam “shows” involving children, records show.
Federal agents arrested him in February while he prepared to board a plane to Taiwan, agents said.
Skladzien accepted a plea bargain on July 10.
The child porn was found on his home computers, the indictment says.
Skladzien, a St. Stanislaus graduate, had worked in jobs installing computer systems at international airports for airlines earlier in his career, his letter to the judge said. He and his family had lived in Long Island, New York, for eight years, during which Skladzien said he became a global operations manager providing computer technology support for more than 200 airports worldwide.
He found the Dark Web
He moved to Bay St. Louis after Hurricane Katrina and obtained a job with NASA.
Skladzien said he was introduced to the Dark Web while working for NASA. The Dark Web is a hidden part of the Internet that can’t be found with traditional search engines. It’s known for criminal activity and is accessible only with special software that makes use of peer-to-peer file sharing.
He investigated the Dark Web out of curiosity, he told the judge.
“Unfortunately, it became the downfall of my life and led me to where I am now,” Skladzien wrote.
“My wife left me and I started drinking and taking prescription drugs, putting me on a path of destruction.”
“I cannot excuse what I have done,” Skladzien wrote, adding that he has “made peace with God.”
Skladzien said he lost everything he had worked for and all his belongings “except for one suitcase of clothes.”
He will be nearly 78 years old when his prison term ends.