SAN ANGELO, TX - After spending 10 years downloading and trading child pornography images online, Ruben Ortiz Haro finally had his day in court. Haro was charged back in 2017 with the promotion and possession of child pornography after investigators traced his IP address to a home in Tom Green County.
Haro pled guilty to the charges but entered a guilty plea with no recommendation, meaning he was asking the court to set the sentence he should serve. Each of the charges can carry prison time of 2-10 years, but it appeared Haro and his lawyer, Stephanie Goodman, were seeking probation for the two charges. The case was heard by Judge Ben Woodward in the 119th District Court.
The first and only witness the state presented was Sergeant Investigator of Tom Green County Andrew Alwine who was in charge of the investigation and search of Haro’s home back in March of 2017. Alwine has worked for Tom Green County since 2008 and has been involved in more than 100 investigations regarding child pornography.
Alwine detailed how the initial investigation was conducted by the state’s Attorney General’s office after they received a cyber tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The tip alleged a Yahoo mail and Flickr user was uploading images of child pornography. After investigators traced the IP address to a home in the 2000 block of Raney St, the case was sent to investigators in Tom Green County. Sgt Alwine and other Tom Green County officers executed a search warrant on the home where they seized electronic devices belonging to Haro.
Alwine stated during his testimony that Haro had shown him where the images of child pornography were stored on his iPad, one of the devices seized by authorities during the search. Assistant District Attorney Stuart Holden asked Sgt. Alwine to describe three specific images that were saved to the iPad.
The images were extremely graphic and showed little girls between the ages of three and six being sexually assaulted and restrained. Other images found on Haro’s hard drive where described as depicting teens between the ages of 14-16 being sexually assaulted or posed in a sexual manner. Over 300 images were found on Haro’s devices and he testified to sharing over 200 images.
According to Haro, he began downloading and trading images of child pornography back in 2007 when a member of a chat group he belonged to asked if he had images that showed children involved in sexual acts. Haro told the court that he been chatting with several people online and in messaging apps, being “flirty” and “exchanging pictures” when one of the users made the request. Haro allegedly told the user that he had no such images.
Then, going “against his better judgment”, he began seeking images of child pornography.
“Once I made up my mind, I started to ask others for those pictures…in exchange for pictures of women,” said Haro.
Haro claimed he knew what he was doing was a crime and that he felt remorseful for his actions. When asked by the ADA Holden if images depicting children in sexual acts aroused him, Haro stated that those types of images weren’t his “personal preference” and that he had only been interested in obtaining the images for other people. He claimed he was only interested in images that showed females of legal age.
“I am sorry. This is something I shouldn’t have ever been involved in. That’s not the type of person that I am," said Haro.
The testimony that was presented by Alwine and the arguments made by Holden painted a different picture of the type of person Haro described himself to be. Alwine did state that Haro had complied with authorities during the search and subsequent interview, but it appeared that Haro had other things in his past that would not make him the most eligible candidate for probation.
During the investigation, authorities discovered several email addresses that Haro used while trading and downloading images. The email addresses are graphic and sexual in nature; they existed before he became involved in downloading child pornography according to Haro.
Two of the emails that were said in court had the following usernames: wantitneeditcraveit247 and p****slave4life, which were each registered in both Gmail and Yahoo domains.
If awarded probation, Haro would have to prove he had consistent employment and he had quit his job after he was arrested in 2017. He told the court that he had not informed his employer that he would not be returning to work and simply stopped showing up.
Haro claimed that he had stopped showing up at work in 2017 because he felt that his employer would “look down on him” if he found out he was facing charges relating to child pornography. He told the court that he had applied to several jobs but that he “lost faith” in those positions after several of his applications went unanswered. Haro was living with his parents, who are both elderly and declining in health. He claims the only employment he has sustained since his arrest is helping a disabled friend who on occasion would give him $25-$40 for gas after he helped with certain tasks and that money was used to pay for gas and cigarettes. But that by applying to several different jobs he showed a willingness to work.
When questioned by the ADA about his work history he testified that his first job after high school had been at the ages of 23 or 24. When asked why he had his first job at that age, Haro stated: “he didn’t feel the need to work because he was young and hanging out with friends.” Haro explained that his work history showed he had often left jobs after only working there for a year or 18 months; but that he had never been unemployed for more than 6 months at a time.
Haro’s father also testified and stated he and his wife never had any idea of what his son had been involved in. But that his son was a good person and that he believed that he would never do anything like this again. He told the court that as he and his wife were getting older and that they would be relying on him to get around.
“I would hate to see him incarcerated and I know that he’s remorseful and knows that it’s a mistake,” said Haro’s father.
During closing arguments, defense attorney Goodman presented the argument that Haro would be a good candidate for sex offender rehabilitation and that probation would be an option for him because he could care for his elderly parents.
She stated that as a parent she understood why images like these were shocking, not appropriate and horrifying; but she appeared to allege that there might be a difference between how someone who has kids and someone who doesn’t understand how horrifying and hurtful actions like this could truly be. Haro has no children of his own, and according to himself and his family has no consistent contact with any minors.
Goodman suggested that sending Haro to prison wouldn’t help his “addiction”, but that being in probation could be rehabilitating for her client.
ADA Holden had a different approach to his closing arguments. While he stated that Haro seemed like a good guy who had never been in trouble with the law before this instance, his conduct had been reprehensible.
He had actively downloaded images of child pornography for 10 years and he needed to be punished for the illegal acts he had committed. He argued that while Haro hadn’t created the horrific images that were found in his possession, he had shared them and that he was part of the customer base that kept the people who created child pornography in business by creating a demand for that type of content.
“I can’t imagine any child having to go through that horror,” said Holden.
After closing arguments were presented Judge Woodward recessed the court for 30 minutes while he deliberated the sentence Haro would receive.
When court resumed Judge Woodward sentenced Haro to 15 years for the first count of promotion of child pornography and to 10 years for possession of child pornography. The sentences will be served concurrently, meaning Haro would serve 15 years in state prison.
Before adjourning Judge Woodward delivered the following statement: “This is just wrong. I can’t say anything redeeming about it.”