A 72-year-old retired attorney from Santa Fe was murdered at the California prison where he was serving a federal sentence for receiving child pornography on the Internet.
Robert A. Warren was attacked sometime before 7 a.m. Thursday at Federal Correctional Institution II in Victorville, Calif., a medium security facility housing more than 1,700 inmates, according to a news release provided to the Victorville Daily Press. He was pronounced dead just before 9 a.m.
Details about the cause of death were unavailable from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
Warren’s sole criminal conviction had generated heated discussion at sentencing about the appropriate punishment for the crime. Prosecutors sought nine years, saying Warren was more than the “passive voyeur” he claimed to be and had fueled the industry by saving thousands of child porn images.
The defense said the five-year mandatory minimum was more than enough punishment for a man with no criminal history, a history of philanthropic giving and a list of medical issues. Society would be better served by allowing him to pursue specific treatment outside of prison, it said.
Because Warren is dead, the conviction and indictment are expected to be dismissed. It’s unclear if the family could recoup the $50,000 fine he was required to pay.
A spokesman at U.S. Bureau of Prisons office in Washington, D.C., said Tuesday that the FBI handles homicide investigations in prisons.
Warren was charged in a seven-count, July 2009 indictment with receipt and possession of visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. He pleaded guilty to a single count of receipt and was sentenced in February by Chief U.S. District Judge Bruce Black to the mandatory minimum five years.
“These mandatory minimums make it impossible for judges to tailor a sentence to fit an individual, especially someone as medically fragile as Mr. Warren,” said Marc Lowry, Warren’s attorney.
Lowry said he had written the Bureau of Prisons twice to urge transfer of his client after Warren was attacked within 12 hours of arrival at Victorville. Black had recommended Warren be allowed to serve his sentence at a federal medical prison facility.
Court pleadings filed by the defense say Warren had a variety of health problems, from diabetes and neurological defects that made him unaware of the effects of his behavior.
Federal prosecutors cited recognition by the Congress, the Supreme Court and U.S. Sentencing Commission that child exploitation offenses should be punished severely, noting that the clear trend since 2003 was to increase sentences.
“The child pornography industry would not be in business if there was not a demand from … (those) willing to pay money for such images and videos,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Charlyn Rees said in a sentencing memorandum.
Warren’s plea agreement reserved his right to appeal the court’s July 2010 ruling denying suppression of evidence against him.
Warren had sought to suppress the evidence based on an argument that the search warrant affidavit used was insufficiently specific and that it contained false information about a prior arrest attributed to him that was of a different Robert Warren.
In Warren’s plea to Count 2 of the indictment, he admitted knowingly receiving a video more than three minutes long that showed a man performing sexual acts on a girl tied with ropes. Forensic examiners identified more than 2,000 child pornography images from 141 child victims.
Court documents say Warren had been identified as a subscriber to child pornography websites in seven national investigations dating back to 2002, but he was not arrested until the FBI in 2007 used a fake new child pornography website to capture the Internet addresses of those who attempted to access it. ..Source.. by Scott Sandlin/Journal Staff Writer
Feds mum on death of Santa Fe man in prison
Federal Bureau of Prisons officials remain tight-lipped about the investigation into the death of a former Santa Fe attorney last week in a California prison.
But the attorney of Robert A. Warren, 72, who died in federal custody Dec. 29 after pleading guilty to child pornography charges, is being very vocal about his concerns that his client's death could have been prevented.
"He agreed to a period of incarceration. He didn't agree to be murdered," Marc Lowry, one of Warren's attorneys from the Rothstein law firm said Wednesday.
James Engleman, a spokesman for the Victorville Federal Correctional Complex, has not returned emails or telephone calls seeking comment on the death investigation. Lowry, meanwhile, said neither he nor Warren's widow have been apprised of many, if any, details into how her husband was killed or if anybody has been charged.
Lowry has little doubt his client was targeted from Day One in federal custody because of the nature of his crimes. Warren, Lowry said, was first attacked at the Victorville prison facility in Adelanto, Calif., within 12 hours of his being transferred there in July after his guilty plea and five-year sentence for a charge of receiving child pornography on the Internet. While waiting for his morning medication the morning after arriving at the facility, two fellow inmates attacked Warren, landing him in the hospital and in protective custody for much of his prison stay after that.
"I think he was targeted because of the charges against him, and that's a problem because the Bureau of Prisons knows that people entering prison with these types of problems are subject to abuse," Lowry said. "It is their duty to protect inmates they know are targets."
Lowry and co-counsel Peter Schoenberg wrote in July to both the U.S. Department of Justice and to the warden of the Victorville prison asking to have Warren transferred, to no avail.
Aside from Warren being targeted by fellow inmates, the 72-year-old man walked with a cane, had diabetes and wasn't in the best physical condition, which is why, Lowry said, U.S. District Judge Bruce D. Black recommended at sentencing that Warren be confined to a medical prison facility in Arizona. Warren had no prior criminal record.
But once in federal custody, the Bureau of Prisons does not have to adhere to a judge's recommendations.
"I think that's one of the tragic downsides of this, that the federal Bureau of Prisons should be considering some sort of facility solely for people with charges like this," Lowry said.
The sentencing itself for Warren allowed no wiggle room for Black, because Congress has approved guidelines requiring mandatory sentences that leave no discretion to sentencing judges.
An alternative for a man such as Warren, Lowry said, would have been house arrest with an ankle bracelet and no access to the Internet, children or a smart phone while serving his sentence.
"His death is a tragic loss for the community," Lowry said. "There was widespread support for Mr. Warren within the community, and everyone that came to the sentencing was mystified that a man of his age and in his physical condition could get a sentence for so long. ... The tragedy here is judges aren't allowed to escape the mandatory sentences called for by Congress."
The Rothstein firm was appealing Warren's conviction related to an issue the defense had with how police conducted a search of Warren's home.
Lowry said it would be premature to discuss whether the firm and Warren's widow will be seeking legal action against the Bureau of Prisons for Warren's death. ..Source.. by Geoff Grammer