By Jessica Kronzer and Luke Lukert
A former College Park mayor was sentenced to three decades in prison Monday for charges associated with possessing and distributing child sexual abuse images.
Patrick Wojahn, 47, pleaded guilty on Aug. 2 to a total of 140 counts related to the material investigators said they found on his devices.
The plea deal called for a sentence of 150 years with 120 years suspended, meaning he will serve 30 years in prison. Under Maryland law, he will be eligible for parole after serving 7 and 1/2 years of his sentence.
“This sentence is instructive,” State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy said. “It instructs us that child pornography is not simply about images, it’s about the pain behind the images, the tragedies that have occurred in these young people’s lives, that should never have happened to them.”
Prosecutors explained the length of his sentence reflects that the former mayor helped re-victimize children, in some cases as many as 20 years after the exploitation took place.
“For some of these victims, it truly is a death sentence to find out that their images are going to forever live on the internet,” said Monica Myers, the assistant state attorney in Prince George’s County.
Hundreds of victims’ abuse was ‘memorialized’
During the hearing, Myers read off dozens of statements from victims and their parents that detailed the abuse seen in the photos and videos, some of which depicted very young children, including infants. In some instances, the victims were bound or injured during the abuse.
“People often refer to this as a victimless crime, or they try to justify the actions of the defendant by saying he didn’t touch anyone,” Myers said. “The purpose of introducing all the statements by the victims today was to really convey behind every image he possessed is a story.”
One victim who spoke on video said she was stalked and harassed online for years after the abuse and even had to move.
Myers said more than 500 victims who live around the world were on Wojahn’s phone.
The state’s attorney’s office submitted those files to an the National Center for Missing Exploited Children, which can assist in identifying victims of online sexual abuse.
The center was able to identify 52 of the children in the videos, while hundreds of others’ identities remain unknown. Myers was able to contact those who were identified to collect 40 victim statements for Monday’s hearing.
Some of the victims self-medicated with drugs and alcohol, and some shut down for fear their friends or families would find images of them online, Myers said.
Forty character letters were submitted and around 15 people spoke in support of the former mayor during the hearing. Some criticized the length of the prison sentence as draconian and vengeful and said the case had been politicized.
Myers responded to those arguments.
“The reason why he pled to 140 counts was because our office is not going to take a position as to which child deserves to have their rape, that was memorialized on video, and forever lives on the internet, pled to,” Myers said.
Assistant State’s Attorney Jessica Garth said she was disappointed with the former mayor.
“While we didn’t pursue this case any differently because of his status as a public servant, he did betray his trust, he did betray the community, particularly the College Park community,” Garth said.
Wojahn apologized to victims at the hearing and said “from the bottom of my heart I recognize the damage I’ve caused.”
How the investigation led to Wojahn
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children tipped off Prince George’s County police in February that someone in the county was distributing child sexual abuse materials.
The investigation led to Wojahn. Officials found over 1,500 pictures and videos on his devices. They also found he shared around 200 of those files on social media.
Wojahn was first elected mayor in College Park in 2015. He resigned in March shortly before his arrest.
WTOP’s John Domen contributed to this report.
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