WASHINGTON - Georgia man convicted of filming pornographic videos of his own children appears to have been the ringleader of a network of people who traded images of "sadistic and brutal beatings" of children, federal law enforcement officials said Monday.
The new revelations about David Lynn Patterson, a 42-year-old computer programmer from Dalton, came as authorities announced that they had broken up an unusual pornography ring called the "Spanking Club."
Patterson "seems to be the core," said Raymond C. Smith, head of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service's child exploitation program. "He was the common link, he knew all the players."
In addition to Patterson, eight people have been convicted of producing or possessing pornographic material of children being brutally spanked.
Patterson, who is serving a 10-year sentence in federal prison for child pornography charges, has been cooperating in the on-going federal investigation.
The Spanking Club case is different from most child pornography cases, according to Smith and Michael Heimbach, unit chief of the FBI's Crimes Against Children Unit.
Child pornographers tend to operate alone.
Members of this ring, however, communicated regularly by e-mail and telephone and traded videos through the mail.
This case also stands out because the films do not show adults having sex with children, rather they show children being beaten and spanked with paddles, whips and other devices.
"We've seen organized rings of sadomasochistic beatings with adults, but this is the first time we've seen it with children," Smith said.
The ring included a diverse array of men: an elementary school teacher in Alabama; a nurse and former Boy Scout master in New York; a bank security guard in New York; a retired chauffeur from Florida; a Sunday school teacher in Illinois; a railroad worker in Wisconsin.
But investigators said they had one common interest: watching children getting spanked in a brutal fashion.
"You can literally hear the cries of the children on the video tape saying, what have I done wrong?' " said Jeffrey Brickman, an assistant U.S. attorney in Atlanta who prosecuted Patterson.
In one video, Patterson's daughter is posing with another girl from the neighborhood, Brickman said. The two young girls are seen wearing nothing but their underwear. They are spreading their legs in front of the camera saying to each other, "work with me," Brickman said. Those were the same words that Patterson had used in other video clips on the girls.
The members of the ring met in the shadowy underworld of child pornography through ads placed in publications such as the Domestic Discipline Digest or through "chat rooms" on the Internet.
"They were sharing fantasies, they were sharing real accounts of their victimization of children and they all enjoyed the sadistic beating of kids and the sexual abuse of kids," Smith said.
Patterson was arrested in August of 2000 after a 2-year undercover operation conducted by the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, local police and Canadian police.
A videotape of Patterson spanking four naked children, all under the age of 12, was found in the home of an assistant school principal in Canada who was later arrested for possessing child pornography.
Brickman said Patterson, admitted that he was "fascinated by spanking for as long as he could remember."
Patterson made the videos of his children to trade with other people because he could not get sexually aroused by watching videos of himself spanking his own children, Brickman said.
Patterson's children are now in the custody of the state of Georgia. He also pled guilty to state charges of molesting children and enticing them for indecent purposes.
Patterson's attorney, Michael A. Corbin of Dalton, did not return several phone calls seeking comment.
"The children were deeply disturbed," said Kermit N. McManus, the district attorney of Conasauga Circuit, who prosecuted Patterson on the state offenses.
"I've seen child pornography in my job, but this was the first time that I've seen it in this form-spanking," McManus said.
Authorities say they have rescued 12 children aged 4 to early teens from the ring's grasp.
"Any time children are brutally beaten, it's the most outrageous type of conduct that we have to deal with involving children's issues," said Heimbach, of the FBI. "It wrenches your heart... but when you see children being beaten on videos and their genitalia being filmed, it's very, very disturbing to all of us in law enforcement."
The case underscores the dramatic increase in child exploitation as a result of people using the internet for pornography, say child experts.
Since the FBI launched its Innocent Images National Initiative in 1996, the number of child exploitation cases handled by the FBI has jumped by from 113 to 1,559. That is a 1280 percent increase.
"Child sex exploitation has been going on since the beginning of time, but I think the internet is lowering the inhibitions of the perpetrators," said Duncan Brown, a staff attorney at the National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse, a Washington-based nonprofit that specializes in training prosectors how to handle child sex crime cases.
Rebecca Carr's e-mail address is rcarr(at)coxnews.com