Special to The Hays Daily News  

WICHITA -- A Smith County man who tried unsuccessfully to suppress evidence gathered by Internet provider AOL was sentenced Monday to 170 months in federal prison for possessing and sending child pornography, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said.

Walter E. Ackerman, 56, Lebanon, pleaded guilty to one count of distributing child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography. At sentencing, prosecutors said Ackerman possessed more than 750 sexually explicit images of prepubescent children.

In his plea, he admitted using AOL email to send child pornography to another user. The child pornography was detected by AOL using an automated image detection and filtering process that scans for malware, viruses and illegal images such as child pornography. AOL sent the information to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which in turn notified the Kansas Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force in the Wichita/Sedgwick County Exploited and Missing Children's Unit.

Ackerman's attorney moved to suppress the email evidence on the grounds the evidence was obtained through an illegal search and seizure with AOL and NECMEC acting as government investigators without a search warrant. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren ruled neither AOL nor NCMEC are state actors and the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure does not apply to them.

Grissom commended Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Kansas Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the Wichita/Sedgwick County Exploited and Missing Children's Unit and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jason Hart for their work on the case.

* In an unrelated case, a La Crosse woman pleaded guilty Monday to embezzling more than $500,000 from the company where she worked, Grissom said.

Crystal Lynn Jones, 34, LaCrosse, pleaded guilty to one count of interstate transportation of stolen money. In her plea, she admitted the crime occurred from 2008 to 2013 while she was officer manager for Teel's Trucks at 1200 Vine in Hays. She wrote unauthorized checks from Teel's company accounts at Commerce Bank and Bank of Hays for her personal benefit. She also conducted transfers on the Automated Clearing House electronic network from Teel's accounts for her own personal benefit. She hid the thefts by altering entries on the company's accounting software and by forging checks.

Sentencing is set for March 2. She faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000. Grissom commended the FBI and Assistant U.S. Attorney Rich Hathaway for their work on the case.