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Former Maryland commerce executive, previously a Hogan aide, sentenced in child pornography case

Mathew Palmer, a former top state government official, was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to a federal charge of distributing child pornography.

Palmer, 44, pleaded guilty in March after authorities found more than 1,000 photos and videos of children on his phone.

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He’ll be required to register as a sex offender.

Palmer resigned abruptly from his job as chief operating officer at the Department of Commerce last August. Just a couple months before, he had transferred to the department after working as Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s deputy legislative officer.

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Palmer was charged in January with using his computer and his phone to share graphic images and videos of children being sexually abused, including using apps such as Wickr and Kik.

Kik provided records to officials that linked accounts sharing “child exploitative material” to internet protocol addresses associated with a Verizon account in Palmer’s name at his home in Severna Park. Investigators searched the home on Aug. 11 and seized a laptop and a personal iPhone, according to the plea agreement.

The phone had “at least 936 images” and 368 videos “constituting child pornography,” the plea agreement said. More videos were found in his Wickr account and his Notes app showed lists of links to file-sharing sites that redirected to webpages saying the files had been removed — an indication, according to the plea agreement, that the files contained “material related to child exploitation.”

Prosecutors sought a sentence of nine years in prison, plus 20 years of supervised release. U.S. District Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher in Baltimore imposed a sentence of eight years in prison, plus the 20 years of supervised release.

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Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel A. Loveland Jr. argued in a sentencing memorandum that the imagery Palmer sought and shared was “particularly horrific,” including depicting abuse of “children as young as toddlers.”

“Palmer’s conduct was appalling,” Loveland wrote. “Trading in child pornography is not a victimless crime — it creates a marketplace of abuse and drives the incentive for criminals to rape children, record it, and provide it to others.”

Palmer did show “timely acceptance of responsibility” and “apparent remorse,” Loveland wrote, which led him to seek a lesser sentence than the 12 to 15 years called for under federal guidelines.

“It’s obviously a very sad case,” said Palmer’s attorney, David B. Irwin of the firm Kramon & Graham. “As he stated in court, he’s very remorseful for his actions. There’s a lot of issues he has to resolve personally. He’s looking forward to moving forward with this stage of his recovery.”

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