By Paula Dobbyn
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) A former Alaska woman who was sexually abused by her paternal grandfather and then, as an adult, downloaded and traded videos of child exploitation has avoided any jail.
Brittany Alexandra Robinson, 25 was the first woman in Alaska to be charged with possessing and distributing child pornography, according to Anchorage police.
A former day care worker at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Robinson received a prison-free sentence on Thursday. Superior Court Judge Kevin M. Saxby agreed with Robinson’s public defender that three years in prison, with three suspended, and five years of probation was appropriate.
“I do find good prospects for rehabilitation here based on the evaluation that was provided to me and the testimony I have heard, including Ms. Robinson’s short, but I’m convinced, heartfelt, expression of remorse,” Saxby said before imposing the sentence.
Prior to hearing her sentence, Robinson addressed the court, wiping tears from her eyes and taking deep breaths before speaking.
“I’m deeply sorry that this has happened. I understand the severity of the situation. And I recognize that I need to heal from the trauma that I experienced in life. I know that with the support of the people around me I can move forward in a positive direction to ensure that nothing like this happens again,” said Robinson, who now lives out of state and is the mother of a three-year-old child.
The case stems from an undercover investigation by Anchorage police in March 2013 in which detectives discovered Robinson was using file-sharing software to view graphic images and videos of children being sexually abused.
Adam Alexander, an attorney with the state Office of Special Prosecutions, told the court on Thursday that Robinson downloaded “a pretty significant" amount of “pretty terrible images of child exploitation.”
Nothing excuses the fact that Robinson -- “in an awful case of irony” -- was responsible for perpetuating the sexual exploitation of children in a way that was “very similar to some of her own experiences,” Alexander said.
Robinson and her younger sister were victimized by their paternal grandfather, Roger Paul Ward, for many years, according to public defender Jonathon Torres.
Ward was recently released from prison in Nevada after a lengthy prison sentence for sexually abusing his granddaughters. Robinson told her parents about being raped by her grandfather but her parents did nothing about it, Torres said.
The family’s coping strategy was to keep silent about the abuse, Torres told the judge.
The sexual exploitation of Robinson’s younger sister was so bad that the child was eventually hospitalized with serious injuries. Authorities realized soon afterward that Robinson had suffered years of abuse, Torres said.
Ward was convicted of two counts of sexual abuse and received 20 years of prison time on each count, Torres said.
When Anchorage police discovered Robinson was downloading and trading child pornography, they seized numerous computers and digital media from her JBER home. A forensic analysis of the equipment resulted in Robinson being charged with 12 felony counts of distribution of child pornography and 18 counts of possession of child pornography.
A warrant was obtained for her arrest on June 24, 2013, but she was able to quash it by posting bail prior to her arrest, police said at the time.
In October 2015, the defense and prosecution reached a plea deal in which Robinson agreed to plead guilty to a single count of indecent viewing of photography.
Alexander said the case presented prosecution challenges because Robinson was both “a victim as a child and an offender as a young woman "in fairly short order.”
“This gives us the opportunity to understand in a very direct fashion the long-term consequence that an adult’s exploitation of a child has on that child as the child grows older, and that’s what we’re seeing here with Ms. Robinson,” Alexander told the court.
Saxby said Robinson’s behavior was compulsive and wrong. But he said the evidence showed that the defendant’s acquisition of child pornography was not for her own gratification but rather “it was more exploratory.”
That’s how her public defender described the behavior too.
“Ms. Robinson wasn’t looking at these images for sexual gratification. It was more that she identified with the victims in the case,” Torres said.
Contact KTUU reporter Paula Dobbyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, 907-762-9242, or @pauladobbyn