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Published November 24 2010

Fargo man sentenced in child porn case

John D. Marquardt was “just curious” when he started viewing child pornography 10 years ago.

But a decade later, the Fargo man had sought, collected and stored at least 768 images and 152 videos of masochistic, sadistic and violent sexual acts against children, including girls as young as 7.

Marquardt was sentenced in U.S. District Court to serve six and a half years in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release, for receiving child pornography. He must pay a $2,000 fine and $4,000 in restitution.

Marquardt also is required to register as a sex offender and was ordered to participate in counseling and/or a sex offender treatment program.

Marquardt, 56, started viewing pornography in his early 20s, his attorney, Mark Friese, said during the sentencing hearing.

In his 40s, Marquardt’s interest escalated to Internet porn and eventually porn that depicted ever-more perverse and degrading acts against children.

“The longer they’re exposed to porn, the more they look for more and more taboo forms,” Fargo clinical psychologist Dr. Stacey Benson testified.

Attorneys spent much of the two-and-a-half-hour hearing questioning Benson about a risk assessment of Marquardt and the validity of such analysis and similar research in determining the likelihood that Marquardt might offend again.

Benson concluded from her clinical assessment that Marquardt is at “low risk” to re-offend.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Puhl argued that research into online child pornography is too new to be taken without some level of skepticism.

She said the nature of the images and Marquardt’s efforts to obtain them needed to be considered when determining his risk – factors not weighed in even the best and most standard assessment tools used by experts, like Benson.

“These images and videos have become so violent, it’s hard to imagine what will come next,” Puhl said. “It’s horrific, it’s tragic, and it’s heartbreaking.”

Puhl called Marquardt a “serious collector” who intentionally searched for and stored “hard-core” child pornography.

“Each image represents the specific and distinct sexual abuse of a child produced for this defendant and others,” Puhl said.

Before his sentence was handed down, Marquardt called the sexual abuse of a child “deplorable.”

“To any and all extent that I played a role in their pain, I’m both extremely ashamed and regretful,” he said.

Friese said Marquardt is “loving and fair” and committed to his work and family – a dozen of whom were in the courtroom to show their support.

But, “like a drug addict looking for his next hit,” Friese said Marquardt demonstrated “evidence of compulsive behavior.”

“It’s easy to focus on the repulsive and abhorrent nature of these images, but we ask the court to focus on Mr. Marquardt’s character,” Friese said in asking for the minimum sentence of five years in prison.

Puhl had requested a sentence of eight years and one month – a figure near the low end of federal sentencing guidelines.

District Court Judge Ralph R. Erickson said Marquardt’s actions were “more than a mere passing interest.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541