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Ashburn man sentenced for child porn

Scott Schoffstall

An Ashburn man was sentenced to 18 months in prison for five counts of possession of child pornography.

Scott Douglass Shoffstall, 55, was sentenced to 25 years, with all but 18 months suspended. In addition, upon his release, he must serve 10 years probation and will be granted only limited computer use.

The recommended minimum active sentence was a little more than two years, though the defense counsel advocated for just probation.

“The court deviated downwards because of the unusual aspects of this case,” Judge Thomas Horne told the court at the Nov. 12 sentencing.
Schoffstall was arrested April 24, 2012, and on Jan. 25 pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography, first offense and four counts of possession of child pornography, subsequent offense.

The investigation of Schoffstall began on Jan. 31, 2012, when M.J. Brown of the Virginia State Police was forwarded a CyberTip from Special Agent J.H. Lenz. According to the tip, which was generated from the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children, on Jan. 27, 2012, using the email address .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), an individual uploaded two pictures of child pornography onto Picasa, an image viewing website developed by Google. The pictures featured naked prepubescent girls, one engaged in oral sex.

Then, between March 4 and 5, the same IP address uploaded more pictures of child pornography to a MySpace account.

But Schoffstall maintains that he kept the images on his computer as a way to lure and report predators, especially parents who traded their children for sexual favors online. Schoffstall had even contacted the FBI prior to arrest, though the agent told him to stop.

Senior Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Gigi Lawless doubted Schoffstall's white knight rendition.

“That might explain a handful of images,” Lawless said of Schoffstall's defense. “But he had a library of over 40,000 images of child pornography.”

“That's not a vigilante, that's a collector of child porn.”

Defense counsel Mark Allenbaugh disputed the number of images on the computer, saying it was more like 5,000. Ultimately, Horne said it didn't matter whether it was “30,000 images or 300.”

“There are some things that are just plain wrong,” Horne said.

Allenbaugh called four witnesses during the sentencing hearing, including psychologist Rachel Schuchart.

From her interviews with Schoffstall, Schuchart said she felt he suffered from not only major depressive disorder and anxiety, but pervasive development disorder. Characterized by delays in socialization and communication, Schuchart said PDD could have factored into Schoffstall's obsession of “catching” child abusers.

“I think it's important for the court to understand the complexity of this disorder,” Schuchart said.
Lawless disputed this as well.

“The diagnoses don't have anything to do with the defendant collecting and masturbating to child porn on his computer,” Lawless said. When he was arrested, Schoffstall had admitted to pleasuring himself to some of the images.

During his brief statement to the court, Schoffstall, through tears, stuck to his story about trapping child sex traffickers and abusers.

“I can't imagine the horror of not feeling safe in their own homes, with their own parents,” he said. “I couldn't stop. I had to do something.”

Schoffstall will also receive mental health services as part of the sentencing.


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