Share
News

Judge reduces Clews’ sentence by 3.5 years in child porn case

sd-cm-nc-drug-school-20171019-001.jpg
Clews pleaded guilty to the charges in 2017, following a two-year investigation by the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which is comprised of investigators from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
(Courtesy)

Christian Clews’ expressed remorse for his crimes of possession and distribution of child pornography was among the key factors cited by a federal judge in reducing his prison sentence to 14 years in custody, at a hearing on Thursday, June 6.

Clews, a former firefighter, owner and operator of a Carmel Valley horse ranch, and a long-time member of the Carmel Valley Community Planning Group, pleaded guilty to the charges in 2017, following a two-year investigation by the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which is comprised of investigators from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.

At his original sentencing hearing in February 2018, Clews was given a 17.5-year prison term, and he was immediately taken into custody to begin serving his sentence. Later that year, Clews’ new attorney, Devin Burstein, brought forward evidence showing that a witness who had testified she was a minor when Clews filmed her in a pornographic video was actually 18 at the time.

That revelation led to Federal District Judge Dana Sabraw to vacate Clews’ sentence, and set Thursday’s new sentencing hearing.

Advertisement

Clews, dressed in a green prison jumpsuit, addressed the judge during the hearing at the downtown federal courthouse.

Since his incarceration last year, Clews told the judge, he has begun to look at his crimes in a different light. While he initially didn’t view the subjects of his videos as “real people,” Clews said he has since realized the pain he caused his victims and their families.

“I’m ashamed for what I have done and the pain I have caused,” Clews said. “I just can’t tell you how sorry I am and I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”

Sabraw said Clews has shown both remorse and insight about his crimes, which was a change from the February 2018 sentencing hearing.

Advertisement

But he also cited a report from a psychologist, who found that Clews has demonstrated an attraction for older adolescent girls, as well as a fixation with such sexual practices as bestiality, sadism and masochism and bondage.

Along with possessing and distributing child pornography, said Sabraw, Clews also orchestrated and produced pornographic videos, During a law enforcement raid of the Clews Horse Ranch in October 2016, agents seized computers containing thousands of still images and videos of children engaged in sexual acts.

Prosecutors also alleged that Clews had inappropriate sexual contact with five women who were minors at the time, allegations Clews has denied. (One of the five alleged victims was the woman who turned out to be over 18 when she was filmed in a pornographic video.)

“Much in the record indicates predatory behavior, there’s no way around that,” Sabraw said Thursday. “There has to be a significant consequence for that.”

In arriving at the 14-year sentence, Sabraw said, he weighed the prosecution’s request for a 20-year term, and the defense recommendation of a 5-year sentence.

“I believe it’s the right, just and fair sentence,” Sabraw said.

In urging the court to show leniency, attorney Judy Clarke, who also represents Clews, introduced a number of friends and relatives who attended the hearing to support the defendant. She said Clews is open and amenable to treatment, and that he was also a victim of sexual abuse. In addition, she said the psychologist’s report indicated he was a low risk to repeat his criminal conduct.

Of the five-year term requested by the defense, Clarke said, “That’s a long time in prison. That’s a long time to fear for your safety.”

Advertisement

However, prosecutor Renee Green said the videos seized by investigators are “the tip of the iceberg of what the defendant has been involved in.”

While he had one persona that he exhibited to the community, said Green, he had a “darker, predatory persona beneath the surface.”

In urging a sentence of at least 17.5 years, Green said, “It’s time for a day of accounting for the defendant and his conduct.”

In addition to his prison sentence, Clews will face 20 years of supervised release once he completes his incarceration.


Newsletters
Get the Del Mar Times in your inbox
Advertisement