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In Erfurt, a German city in the state of Thuringia, a 34-year-old confessed to sexual abuse charges that stemmed from his actions on a darknet chatroom. The 34-year-old Gotha man was one of 50 caught in a international child abuse network sting operation. At the District Court of Erfurt, the judge—one who had dealt with similar cases—spoke of his shock while reading and hearing the 34-year-old’s case.

The men, including the defendant who confessed his crimes at the District Court of Erfurt, had contributed directly to the abuse of a child through the darknet. On a hidden service chat room, the 50—or more—men had paid the family (father and mother) to abuse their two year old daughter and either stream the footage of upload it at a later time. While the price that each participant had had the parents of the 2-year-old has not yet been discussed, the 34-year-old paid 5,000 euros to participate in the violent abuse of the innocent victim.

Judge Holger Pröbstel, the presiding judge, said that the case had sickened him despite his long history of dealing with child abuse cases. The prosecution found it relevant to read aloud the chat transcripts in front of the Court. The transcripts, beyond a shadow of a doubt, proved that the 34-year-old both paid and issued commands that directly controlled the rape and abuse the child had endured.

According to the defendant, he had stumbled across the hidden service by accident and in boredom. He quickly learned that the girl he would be virtually controlling—through a proxy who would carry out the actual abuse— was only two years old. He admitted to the Court that this was when he realized that his sexual preferences were “a problem” and that the preferences probably required therapy.

The legal council, speaking for the defendant, explained that the man had realized what he had done. He had learned the full weight of his crimes. While the defendant was in police custody awaiting a hearing, he “became more and more aware of the abominable act he had supported and committed,” the lawyer stated. The lawyer explained that his client knew punishment was in order, but asked if, instead of prison time, the client receive probation. And to this request, Judge Pröbstel responded with a “maybe,” of sorts.

Pending an independent psychiatric evaluation, the defendant could receive a pre-trial diversion. The prison sentence would be mitigated upon completion of a probation period and compliance with any other stipulations the judge requested.

The father and mother of the young girl received a sentence of 10 years and nine months and a sentence of 10 years, respectively.