Brothel owner sentenced for child porn | NevadaAppeal.com
MATT JOYCE
Associated Press Writer

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Brothel owner sentenced for child porn

CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Former Nevada brothel owner David Burgess was sentenced Friday to 15 years in federal prison for his recent conviction on charges of possessing and transporting child pornography.

U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson also sentenced the 55-year-old Hells Angels Motorcycle Club member to 10 years of supervision upon his release, lifetime registration as a sex offender and a fine of $20,000.

Prosecutors say investigators found a vast and neatly organized collection of child porn on two hard drives confiscated from Burgess’ motorhome during a traffic stop in western Wyoming last July. A jury convicted him on both counts in April.

“I would hope that at some point this defendant will be able to acknowledge his preoccupation with child pornography and the damage it has done to his life, his business and his family members,” Johnson said before imposing the sentence.

Burgess, a charter member of a Nevada chapter of the Hells Angels and owner of the Old Bridge Ranch, a legal brothel in northern Storey County, maintained his innocence throughout the case.

“The only thing that I have to say is I just apologize for having put the court through this,” Burgess told the judge.

The Storey County Brothel Licensing Board, which suspended Burgess’ license for the Old Bridge Ranch on May 9 then reaffirmed it during an appeal June 6, will now consider permanently revoking the license. Burgess’ liquor license was also suspended June 6. Bob Kershaw, one of four members of the board, along with the other two county commissioners and Sheriff Jim Miller, said he didn’t see any choice but to permanently revoke Burgess’ license.

“How can you suspend a license for 15 years?” Kershaw said. “I can’t decide for the other commissioners, but we definitely have to take action on it. It’s unfortunate the thing had to happen in the first place, but he is the one holding the license.”

He said time will tell if anyone else applies for the license.

Burgess’ defense attorney, Dion Custis of Cheyenne, said he will appeal the case. Burgess was traveling to a Hells Angels rally in Arkansas when a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper stopped his motorhome along Interstate 80 near Evanston last summer. Police said the vehicle’s trailer had an expired license plate. During the stop, Burgess was arrested on drug charges when officers found substances believed to be marijuana and cocaine in the vehicle. State drug charges stemming from the traffic stop were later dismissed.

Officers also seized the hard drives from Burgess’ motorhome because they believed they could contain evidence related to drug trafficking. A subsequent investigation turned up at least 30,000 child porn images on one of the hard drives and “tens of thousands” more on the second, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Anderson said Friday.

Custis argued for a sentence of less than 10 years for Burgess, who had no prior criminal history. He said Burgess has been financially ruined by the case, having already lost his business and his home. The conviction was based on a crime of “simple possession,” Custis said, and did not involve a particular victim, violence or assault, he said.

“This is not a man who needs to be removed from society for the remainder of his adult life,” Custis said.

Anderson countered that characterizing possession of child porn as a victimless crime “totally ignores the suffering of these children.” Burgess found enjoyment at the children’s expense and created a demand for the photos, Anderson said.

Anderson urged Johnson to impose a sentence of at least 17.5 years.

Burgess’ estranged wife, Ingrid Burgess, spoke on her husband’s behalf. She said her husband has a history of philanthropy in the Storey County community, such as donating Thanksgiving turkeys to the poor and organizing toy drives at Christmas.

Johnson said his sentencing decision had nothing to do with Burgess’ former ownership of a brothel or his involvement in the Hells Angels.

The child pornographic material “in and of itself is poisonous and toxic for the person who collects it,” Johnson said. “Persons who are addicted to this material truly feel that they need help eventually.”

Johnson also dismissed past suggestions made by some of Burgess’ associates that the government planted the pornographic images on Burgess. “There is absolutely no evidence of that,” he said.

Johnson said he would recommend that federal prison officials grant Burgess’ request to serve his sentence at the prison in Herlong, Calif., 50 miles northwest of Reno.

Burgess had faced from five to 30 years in prison and up to a $500,000 fine for the crimes.

The sentence Johnson imposed Friday included 15 years for transporting child pornography and 10 years for possessing child pornography, with both sentences to be served concurrently.

• Appeal staff writer Karen Woodmansee contributed to this report.