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Former Maryland commerce executive, previously a Hogan aide, pleads guilty to distribution of child pornography

Mathew Palmer, a former Maryland state Commerce Department executive who abruptly resigned in August, pleaded guilty Tuesday to distribution of child pornography after authorities found more than 1,000 photos and videos of minors on his phone.

Palmer, 44, of Severna Park, will be required to register as a sex offender in Maryland and faces a minimum mandatory of five years in prison and up to 20 years, according to a news release from the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office. His sentencing has not yet been scheduled.

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“The exploitation of children is a serious threat and problem that has grown over the course of the pandemic,” Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan Lenzner said in a news release. “Individuals like Palmer who trade and possess this illegal material online are essentially facilitating an underground criminal market. This case should serve as a reminder that law enforcement will pursue anyone who endangers children, and that no one is above the law.”

Before transferring June 3 to the commerce position at a salary of $133,000, Palmer worked as Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s deputy legislative officer.

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Prosecutors said investigators at Homeland Security Investigations received reports from an instant messenger application advising that multiple accounts using similar usernames with “anonjohnny” as part of the name, had uploaded at least one image of child pornography or child-sensitive material between April 2019 and September 2019. The accounts were shut down each time the application detected the child exploitative material, according to Palmer’s plea agreement.

Investigators discovered the IP address used to access the accounts was registered to Palmer’s phone number, email and Severna Park home address. It also showed that the user was accessing the materials from state government.

Last August, Palmer’s home was searched, prosecutors said, and investigators seized his electronics, including a phone linked to his state email address and an account logged on with the username “anonjohnny.”

Prosecutors said Palmer admitted that he used this account to engage in chats with several other users concerning child exploitation. He also admitted to receiving and distributing child pornography, prosecutors said.

Investigators found more than 900 photos and 350 videos of child pornography on Palmer’s cellphone, including prepubescent minors, child pornography involving toddlers, and child pornography involving bondage and other sadistic acts.

Palmer would send covert and encrypted messages through an application on his phone. Investigators found two additional videos of child pornography on the app, prosecutors said, and evidence showing he used it to distribute a video of child pornography to a chat group of 58 people. Palmer’s phone also included several links under the “notes” section to active child pornographic websites.

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