A sordid chapter in the annals of Wallowa County justice has come to an end as John W. Stonebrink, 50, Wallowa received a 123-month sentence to the Oregon Department of Corrections at Wallowa County Circuit Court on May 31 regarding multiple charges of possession of child pornography and attempting to lure a minor.
Wallowa County District Attorney Rebecca Frolander said the case hit hard.
“Obviously, the subject matter is very challenging, and the descriptions of the images is something that is really hard to get out of your head,” she said.
As Oregon Department of Justice investigated the case, Frolander wasn’t required to view the films involved although she had to write out brief descriptions of what the films contained.
The DOJ started investigating the case after receiving a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The initial information came as a cyber tip from the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
Frolander explained that the DOJ reviewed all the relevant material to the case because although there is an exception for law enforcement purposes, the act of copying and disseminating sexually explicit images of children is a crime, so the DOJ tries not to duplicate them.
The investigator gave Frolander descriptions of the images and had she needed any for trial, the department would have traveled here to show her the images.
“Until I’m headed in for trial, for my own health and welfare, I try not to look at all the images if I don’t have to.”
Frolander said she had one other similar case she’s prosecuted from the DA’s office. In that case, a Union man had possession of sexually explicit photos of a minor he was communicating with online, although he wasn’t trading them online, as Stonebrink had.
Stonebrink kept his illegal material in several places: On his cell phone, through Facebook exchanges, his email and Dropbox.
“There were multiple platforms these items were stored in, transmitted through, shared with other people,” Frolander said.
A number of law enforcement people worked collaboratively on the case. DOJ employee Marl Posler did much of the work. Frolander said that the recently retired Posler told her it was one of the most egregious cases he’d seen in the last 30 years.
Stonebrink’s two Wallowa County cases and the Jackson County case were melded together into one case. Frolander said that the first tip about the first Wallowa County case came from Facebook to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program, a national network of 61 coordinated task forces that represents 4,500 federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies. The agency was investigating the tip when Stonebrink was arrested on the Luring a Minor charge in Wallowa County on the Jackson County case.
Stonebrink’s phone made the trip to Jackson County as part of his personal property, but the tip to ICAC provided enough information to allow a warrant to seize the phone and examine the contents. The phone revealed contents pertinent to the Jackson County case as well as the first Wallowa County case. With Stonebrink in jail in Jackson County, his defense attorney asked for permission to represent her client in the Wallowa County case and an ensuing dialogue started between Frolander and Stonebrink’s attorney on the best way to resolve the separate cases with the least impact on the victim and also avoid multiple trips between Wallowa and Jackson counties.
During the first Wallowa County investigation law enforcement received a tip from Dropbox, an online cloud storage platform, that a Stonebrink account possibly contained unlawful images of children. Another investigation with search warrants ensued for Dropbox, Google and other entities. Authorities found more images, including some duplicates of the images from the first case. All were linked back to his home, phone, email, etc.
“There were a lot of ways we were able to prove it was the same person,” Frolander said. “They had different dates they were uploaded than the first case, so it was a separate incident. Everything kind of happened at the same time as far as one thing would lead to the next.”
Stonebrink’s network of crime and pornography extended to Europe. Frolander added that child pornography is produced everywhere, and that the Center for Missing and Exploited Children keeps a database of images regularly shared and traded online.
Although Stonebrink is spending the next 10 years with no ability to exploit children, it doesn’t necessarily mean that all the loose ends are tied up.
“Statistically, we know that people who examine, possess or trade pornographic images of children tend to be offenders of real children, so I don’t know whether there are any victims of him or anyone else that will come forward,” she said. “If anyone comes forward, we will investigate it and pursue it in any manner that we can.” She also urged that victims of sex crimes who do not want to step forward should seek medical care and pursue counseling or other supportive services because the impact will eventually affect them physically or emotionally for the rest of their lives.