A former day care provider and National Security Agency employee was given a 13-month sentence yesterday for possessing child pornography videotapes, some of which he bought from undercover federal agents in a sting operation.
Charles Meldrum, 58, told Judge Andre M. Davis in U.S. District Court in Baltimore that he has made progress in dealing with an addiction to pornography.
"I apologize to everyone," said Meldrum, who with his wife had run a day care center in their Columbia home from 1990 to 1992. None of the children or their parents have alleged any wrongdoing.
The judge rejected Meldrum's request for no jail time, saying he wouldn't be acting in the best interests of protecting the community unless he sentenced Meldrum to federal prison.
"I'm torn in this case because I think in your heart of hearts you're really a decent person," Davis said. "But I'm concerned about your affinity for child pornography."
Meldrum once worked at the National Security Agency, the intelligence agency based at Fort Meade. His lawyer, Timothy S. Mitchell, wouldn't say what he did at the NSA or when he left.
Meldrum was targeted for investigation by U.S. Postal Inspection Service agents in July 1997 after he responded to an ad in the City Paper for "exotic videotapes." It was placed by postal inspectors looking for people buying or selling child pornography, according to a federal affidavit written by U.S. Postal Inspector Thomas E. Boyle.
Meldrum, unaware that he was dealing with federal agents, wrote several letters to the post office box listed in the ad, saying he was interested in girls ages 10 to 15, the affidavit said. At one point, he sent a nude picture of himself. The undercover agents sent him an "inventory catalog" of videotapes that were available for $15 each. All had been seized in earlier child pornography investigations.
Within a month of beginning their investigation, the postal inspectors discovered they weren't alone in their undercover discussions with Meldrum. The U.S. Customs Service, using a post office box in Hong Kong that it advertised in American "swinger magazines," was also getting mail from him, the affidavit said.
Meldrum had ordered two child pornography tapes from the Hong Kong address, again unaware that he was dealing with federal agents, prosecutors said. He paid for them with an $85 money order.
Minutes after the tapes were delivered to his home, Meldrum was arrested and postal inspectors conducted a court-ordered search of the house to retrieve them, the affidavit said. They also found a third untitled tape that contained "footage of lascivious exhibitions" of minors, prosecutors said.
Mitchell said Meldrum's aberrant behavior began after he suffered a stroke several years ago.
"He is extremely remorseful and embarrassed," Mitchell told the judge, adding that mental health professionals who have evaluated Meldrum say he is progressing well in treatment.
After his arrest, Meldrum wrote a letter to the prosecutor in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew G. W. Norman, to try to explain his behavior.
"For years I have been addicted to sex. I don't know why I ordered child pornography, but maybe curiosity, maybe I really wanted child sex. I just don't know," he wrote. "I really guess maybe I wanted to be caught.
"I am extremely sorry for what I have done, and I want help to get rid of my obsession."
Pub Date: 1/23/99