Wayne White | Managing Editor
TOPEKA—Following guilty pleas to three child pornography
charges in October, a former Osage City Council member was sentenced
to more than 17 years in a federal penitentiary last week in U.S.
District Court, Topeka.
Jason Croucher, 27, Osage City, appeared in the courtroom of U.S.
District Judge Julie A. Robinson on May 19, guarded by two U.S.
Marshals, and wearing an orange jumpsuit, handcuffs and ankle
After being indicted by a federal grand jury in June, Croucher
pleaded guilty Oct. 13 to two counts of receiving or distributing
child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography.
During the plea hearing, Croucher admitted he committed the crimes
alleged to have occurred May 11, May 14, and June 22, 2009.
Last week’s hearing was set for sentencing, but most of
the day’s testimony was by Croucher, who requested the judge
to consider a variance in sentencing guidelines. Croucher asked
the judge to depart from the recommended 210 months in prison,
reducing it to 105 months.
Under questioning from his attorney, James Chappas, Topeka, Croucher
told of growing up as a gay male teenager in Osage City, and his
desire not to be gay.
“As a gay person, I was afraid of my sexuality,” Croucher
said. “I was hoping I wasn’t gay.”
Noting most of his high school friends had girlfriends and he
did not, he said he began viewing pornography as his sexual outlet.
His consumption of pornography increased, and as a young adult,
he eventually turned to viewing gay pornography on the Internet,
Croucher said in 2009 he faced financial difficulties and the
break up of his relationship with another man. At that time, his
consumption of pornography increased, he said. He said he became
involved in Internet chat rooms, where he connected with others
that exchanged pornography, and he learned about file sharing
software and began collecting child pornography.
Croucher said that he maintained three separate identities while
in the chat rooms, that of an 18-year-old female, a 19-year-old
male and a 25-year-old male.
“I was pretending to be people I was not,” he said.
“You have to engage in the sort of conversation they desired,”
he said of other users of the file-sharing network.
He said the procedure for acquiring child pornography became a
game, and such users must “prove yourself at great length,
in incredibly inappropriate detail” due to the illegality
of the actions.
“I was addicted to pornography,” he said, but did
not realize it until after the FBI searched his home, and he had
sought counseling with a therapist.
Although Croucher told the judge, “Every last word I typed
was fiction,” Robinson focused on the nature of Croucher’s
chat sessions uncovered during the investigation.
“The court finds it difficult to believe … the things
he talked about were just for acquiring” pornography, Robinson
said. “In the court’s mind, it’s more indicative
of something Mr. Croucher fantasized about, not just for obtaining
Croucher’s arrest was the result of an FBI investigation
in San Diego, Calif. The U.S. Attorney’s Office reported
the FBI had taken control of an Internet account in a file-sharing
network and began investigating other users that had shared files
with that account. During the investigation, the FBI received
child pornography from Croucher’s computer in Osage City.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office reported the FBI found three
folders on Croucher’s computers containing files received
through the file-sharing network. One folder contained 700 images
of child pornography; two other folders held 23 child pornography
Questioned by the judge about why he pleaded guilty to the crimes
without benefit of a plea agreement, Croucher said he knew he
was guilty, and he never intended to plead innocent to the charges.
He said he had stood mute during his first appearance in federal
court before a magistrate judge, because the only plea the judge
could accept at that hearing was not guilty. The judge entered
not guilty pleas for Croucher because he would not claim he was
not guilty, he said.
He said he also believed offering to plead guilty might “mitigate
my exposure to charges” and that his attorney had met with
assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Hart to negotiate for reduced charges.
“I wanted to do everything I could to assist the government
in the investigation,” he said.
“Mr. Hart was not receptive to those exchanges,” Croucher
said, but he still believed he was guilty and would eventually
be incarcerated for the crimes.
“From the moment they walked into my house, I knew I was
going to prison,” Croucher said.
Croucher said he requested the judge to consider a variance in
the sentence because he hoped to be able to help others once he
was out of prison. He said he hoped to earn a degree in psychology
while in prison.
“If I had been aware of my sexual addiction … I would
never have arrived at the point where I am,” Croucher said.
“I’ve made a disastrous mistake that I have a hard
time believing myself,” he said. “A sentence of 20
years will make it very hard for me to bounce back and be a better
Robinson spoke about the evidence in the case, saying, “This
absolutely represents the worst kind of distribution,” calling
Croucher’s conduct “extreme.”
Noting the case “involved video where children cried out
in pain,” Robinson referred to victims of the pornography
“It represents the first cry in a life that might be nothing
but crying,” she said.
Robinson said that although the sentence must be sufficient but
not greater than necessary, “other than producing, there
is no more serious offense in child pornography than procuring
and viewing …”
She said the sentence she imposed needed to incapacitate the defendant
“to protect the public from further crimes.”
Describing the evidence as the worst she had seen except for pornography
in which children are killed, Robinson said Croucher’s crimes
could have progressed “by going out and acting on it.”
Agreeing he ought to go to prison, Croucher requested the judge
consider allowing him a longer supervised release period and a
Noting his prior community service as a member of the Osage City
Council, and his former employment in then-congresswoman Nancy
Boyda’s office, as a campaign worker for Jim Slattery, and
with The Osage County Herald-Chronicle, Robinson said she believed
Croucher to be “salvageable.” Robinson said Croucher
could receive treatment while in prison, and the term she imposed
would “hopefully keep him from harming others.”
Croucher resigned as a member of the Osage City Council July 21,
2009, without giving a reason. He was elected to the position
in April 2007. Croucher had been an employee at The Herald-Chronicle
until he resigned in June 2008.
Croucher said during his testimony he had been incarcerated at
a private prison in Leavenworth since entering his plea in October.
During that time he has been in protective custody at his request,
due to the nature of his crimes, the fact he is gay, and that
he or the guards could not protect him from other inmates.
Concluding the hearing, Robinson sentenced Croucher to 210 months
for each count of distributing child pornography, and 120 months
for possession of child pornography, with all sentences to run
concurrently. Robinson said she could give Croucher credit for
the time he has been incarcerated since October of last year.
Upon release, he will be supervised for five years, and be required
to register as a sex offender. The judge did not impose a fine,
but ordered Croucher to pay a $300 assessment fee.
“I apologize to my family and friends, and the people in
Osage City and Osage County who have trusted me in the past,”
Croucher said before the judge announced the sentence.
Croucher asked to be sent to the Forrest City Federal Correctional
Complex in Arkansas, saying he would be able to receive treatment
there for his addiction, and it would be close enough to his home
for his family to visit. The judge agreed to make that recommendation.