An elementary school art teacher pleaded guilty April 11 to 50 counts of possession of child pornography.
Standing before Judge Stephan Sincavage in the Loudoun County Circuit Court, Ralph Watts Conrad, 43, of Hamilton, stoically uttered guilty 50 times as Sincavage polled him on his pleas and his family wiped tears from their eyes in the audience.
Sentencing ranges from one to five years in prison or 12 months in a local jail. But the court has discretion in whether or not Conrad serves any sentences consecutively or concurrently, meaning Conrad could be incarcerated for as long as 250 years. Additionally, he will be forced to register as a sex offender.
Because he has not been convicted of the charges and faces such a lengthy prison sentence, Sincavage granted the request of Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Travis Owens to revoke Conrad's $7,500 bond.
“He no longer has the presumption of innocence,” Owens told the court. “The guidelines call for a significant amount of time.”
Defense attorney Caleb Kershner argued on Conrad's behalf, noting that he has a home and family in Loudoun and that his father is dying of Parkinson's disease.
Conrad was arrested Sept. 10 after the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office was notified of his illicit activities Aug. 20. Local police were notified of his activities through a national investigation by Department of Homeland Security Investigations and the NoVA/DC Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce, who discovered his Conrad's activities during a national investigation called Operation Protego, designed to find people who use image-sourcing to distribute and receive child pornography. After a three-week investigation, officers executed a search warrant at Conrad's home, taking a laptop computer, a desktop computer, several servers, thumb drives, zip drives and mobile phones.
For the past 15 years, Conrad had worked as an art teacher in Loudoun County. At the time of his arrest, he was employed at Algonkian Elementary School, but in the past had served as an itinerant instructor at Belmont Station, Lowes Island, Frances Hazel Reid, Mill Run and Creighton's Corner elementary schools. Conrad had been disciplined once after speaking with a middle school girl and using explicit terms to describe her buttocks and breasts.
Though charged with 50 counts, investigation revealed Conrad had in his possession 520 videos and more than 2,000 sexually explicit videos of minors, including some of children as young as 2 and 3 years old.
No Loudoun County children were in any of the pictures or videos.
Conrad will remain at the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center and will undergo evaluations for a pre-sentencing report. He is scheduled to be sentenced July 25 at 4 p.m.