A Kenosha County Circuit Court jury returned a split verdict in a child pornography case against a Kenosha man who shared photos with his girlfriend, along with sexually explicit messages about an 11-year-old girl in the girlfriend’s care.
Ryan Hunt, 45, was convicted Wednesday of two counts of possession of child pornography following a two-day trial. The jury found him not guilty on a third count, which did not show the face of the person depicted.
Hunt testified at the trial, admitting that he had sent the photographs. But he insisted he did not think they were children.
“I thought they were young adults similar in size and shape to my ex-wife,” Hunt testified, saying he would “definitely not” have looked at the photos if he knew they depicted girls under the age of 18.
Defense attorney Terry Rose argued at trial that the state could not prove the ages of those depicted in the photos, and that it was possible they were over 18. “I don’t believe there was enough solid evidence to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt,” Rose said.
However, evidence presented of Hunt’s text messages to a woman and of image files and searches on his computer appeared to show a sexual interest in children going back to at least 2017.
Alerted by tip
According to testimony at the trial, Kenosha Police were alerted through a tip by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that child pornography had been shared through Facebook from an account associated with Hunt to a woman later identified as his girlfriend. That girlfriend was also initially charged, although a judge later dismissed those charges.
According to the initial criminal complaint, Hunt shared a sexually explicit photograph of a prepubescent child with his girlfriend. Hunt and the girlfriend then exchanged sexually explicit messages about the photograph, and then began to talk about the 11-year-old. They spoke of Hunt purposefully getting the girl pregnant.
“You will have to be very gentle with her during your special play time,” the girlfriend wrote.
“Of course mommy, I will treat her super special,” Hunt replied.
Hunt said he was not serious in the conversation and had no intention of following through on what they were discussing, calling the conversation “make believe.”
“But it was an idea that caused you sexual arousal?” Prosecutor Emily Trigg asked, saying Hunt was having the discussion knowing he was talking about having sex with an 11-year-old girl.
“No, I don’t consider that sexual arousal, we were just having fun,” Hunt said.
‘It’s a fetish’
Trigg also read off a series of image file names and internet searches Hunt had done on a computer that police seized from his home and searched as part of the investigation. The prosecutor read from a stack of printed pages of search terms found on the computer, all indicating he was searching for sexually explicit images of young girls, one including the term “tween and younger”
“You searched for ‘young girl looking for a daddy?’” Trigg asked. He said he did.
Trigg asked if he had searched for images of girls in diapers.
“Sure, it’s a fetish,” Hunt said.
Hunt was free on $25,000 bond and continued to work as an engineer at a Racine-based manufacturer until he was taken into custody following his conviction Wednesday.
Child pornography convictions carry a mandatory minimum prison sentence of three years.
Hunt is scheduled to be sentenced April 16.