Crime

Former coach accepts prison

A former youth softball coach will likely spend more than 20 years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty Wednesday to child pornography charges.

Fresno resident Mark McGarry pleaded guilty to one count of possession and one count of receipt and distribution of child pornography, and as part of a deal with federal prosecutors agreed to a prison sentence of 24 years and seven months.

McGarry's sentence is almost twice as long as others facing similar charges because it includes an "enhancement" for alleged child molestation. McGarry faces child molestation charges in Fresno County Superior Court, and as part of the plea deal, he agreed to the enhancement, which will account for more than 10 years of his total sentence.

"This is another tragic example of the all-too-common intersection between viewing [child pornographic] material and acting out the same conduct," said Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gappa, who prosecuted the case.

As part of an agreement involving McGarry, federal prosecutors and the Fresno County District Attorney's Office on the child molestation charges, McGarry, 46, will plead guilty, be sentenced to 16 years in prison and face lifetime registration as a sex offender, said Bob Ellis, a Fresno County assistant district attorney.

The District Attorney's Office agreed to let McGarry serve the state prison time concurrently with his federal sentence, Ellis said.

"We're pleased with the length of the [federal] sentence," he said. "This guy is getting a lot of time — which he richly deserves."

Ellis also said the plea deal "spared a child victim from having to participate in a trial. That obviously is always an important issue for us."

The McGarry investigation began in December 2004 with a tip from America Online to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

Information on McGarry's computer in turn led investigators to the Pennsylvania home of game store owner Jeffrey Yingst, who earlier this year was sentenced to 10 years and one month in federal prison on child pornography charges.

The Yingst investigation led to more people who were exchanging child pornography via Internet e-mails.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement senior special agent Mike Prado described the process of tracking the individuals as tedious, exhausting and time consuming — but worth it.

From the initial McGarry investigation, the arrest total is now more than 75 nationwide.

And, Prado said: "This case is by no means over."

Prado, who along with Fresno County sheriff's detective Kevin Wiens was honored earlier this year by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for this investigation, said McGarry's guilty plea "sends a major message to persons involved in this type of activity, and that is they will not only be caught, but punished to the fullest extent of the law."

Like Gappa, Prado noted the link between viewing child pornography and molesting children — or worse. He said Yingst admitted in court to having fantasies of abducting, torturing and murdering children.

"We're dealing with some very disturbed individuals," Prado said.

McGarry was arrested in January 2005, a short time after the initial tip. At the time, law enforcement officials said, he also confessed to the molestation of an 11-year-old girl in Clovis.

According to an affidavit filed at the time, officials found numerous child pornography images, including 47 prints under a mattress, 445 on one computer disc and 41 movies on another.

U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger set sentencing for Jan. 22. If Wanger follows the plea deal, Gappa estimated that with prison credits, McGarry will be released from prison sometime between age 65 and 70.

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