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Three years after he was initially charged, a former Ellsworth airman was convicted Thursday of receiving and possessing child pornography while on base and in Rapid City.

After deliberating for close to four hours, a federal jury found 25-year-old Colby Haggerty guilty of two counts of receipt of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. Each count carries a sentence of five to 20 years in prison.

Federal prosecutors said that between 2009 and 2014, while Haggerty was living on Ellsworth Air Force Base, he downloaded at least 1,000 pornographic images of children onto his dorm computer. His activities were discovered by law enforcement officers with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

And in 2015, in Rapid City, more images were found on his cellphone.

The victims were as young as infants and no older than 12, including foreign children, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Collins.

Haggerty custom built a computer system especially to house the images, Collins said during closing arguments at the Rapid City federal courthouse on Thursday morning. At certain moments, she pointed to Haggerty’s confiscated computer system, which had been wheeled into the courtroom, including a tower bearing the words “tuff inside.”

Haggerty, the prosecutor said, had admitted committing the offenses when interviewed by investigators.

His lawyer, George Grassby, countered by highlighting flaws in the interview, such as Haggerty not being told he had a right to an attorney and being led by investigators to make false confessions.

“I ask you to consider these statements as unreliable,” Grassby told jurors on the fourth and last day of the trial.

Haggerty, he said, was in the U.S. Air Force for four years, “defending our country, and he wasn’t hiding anything.”

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He denied that the child porn images on Haggerty’s computer and cellphone belonged to the defendant. They were accidentally downloaded onto his computer by a virus, Grassby said, and transmitted to his cellphone by a roommate who was a sex offender.

Hackers could have also been responsible, the lawyer said, adding: “There are many ways these things could have been placed into a computer without Colby’s knowing.”

Grassby said also that there was no independent verification of the methods that computer investigators used.

After the jury’s guilty verdict was announced at 3 p.m. Thursday, Grassby asked Chief Judge Jeffrey Viken for an acquittal, saying there had not been enough evidence for a conviction. Viken denied the request.

Haggerty is detained at the Pennington County Jail. His sentencing has not been scheduled.

Ellsworth Air Force Base earlier confirmed that Haggerty was a member of the Air Force until 2015 and that his last assignment was at the base.

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Cops and Courts Reporter

Cops and courts reporter for the Rapid City Journal