At 13, Alicia Kozakiewicz was kidnapped, held hostage and tortured in a Herndon basement by a man she met through the Internet. Today, Kozakiewicz is a college sophomore who lobbies the federal and Virginia governments to increase funding to fight sexual predators.
Kozakiewicz said it is difficult but worthwhile to speak about what happened to her. In addition to lobbying for legislation, she speaks to children about the potential dangers of Internet use. Its a very hard thing to do, but its something that needs to be done, Kozakiewicz said. Somebody has to do it.
The man who abducted Kozakiewicz six years ago posed as a 14-year-old girl on the Internet, according to news reports of Kozakiewiczs congressional testimony. Kozakiewicz agreed to meet this girl, whom she thought was her friend. However, when she left her house on New Years Day in 2002, 38-year-old Scott Tyree was waiting for her instead.
Tyree abducted Kozakiewicz and brought her to his townhouse in Herndon. It took the FBI four days to find Kozakiewicz. During that time, she was raped, tortured and chained in a basement bedroom. Tyree currently is serving a 19-year federal-prison sentence.
According to the Department of Justice, in as many as 30 percent of online predator cases, a local child victim is identified and saved. Materials seized often include hard-core pictures and videos of children as young as 18 months old. How many get away? Who knows? said the United States Attorney for the Eastern District, Chuck Rosenberg. But our message to child predators is pretty clear: Leave our kids alone.
Rosenberg said that child predator cases can be the toughest to stomach. Rosenbergs office has a team of investigators exclusively detailed to the Department of Justices Project Safe Childhood program, and the Eastern District leads the nation in prosecutions of child predators.
The laws on possession, receipt and manufacture of child pornography are severe. If youre convicted, youre going to jail, he said firmly. If youre going to jail, youre staying in jail. Rosenberg calls cases like that of Kozakiewicz troubling. What we see now is a coarsening of society. Pictures and images are getting worse and worse. Children depicted in them are getting younger and younger.
While most of his criminal cases are brought by the FBI or the Secret Service, increasingly these cases arise from state and local investigations, such as the Alexandria Police Department, Alexandria Sheriffs Office or Office of the Commonwealths Attorney.
On Tuesday, Del. Brian Moran (D-46) was joined by Kozakiewicz, Capt. Tim Evans, commander of Northern Virginia’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and Lt. Colonel H.C. Davis, the director of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation to announce that Alicias Law will increase the capacity of regional law enforcement to arrest online child predators.
“Alicia’s Law is a victory for human rights,” said Grier Weeks of the National Association to Protect Children. It is the boldest state effort yet to fight back against the evil of child exploitation,” she said.
On Tuesday, a similar announcement was held in Bedford, VA., with the leadership of the Southern Virginia Internet Crimes against Children Task Force.
In March, Task Force affiliates arrested a 41-year-old Swedish man after he traveled from Sweden to Arlington with the intention of having sex with a 14-year-old girl. The man is currently being held in the Alexandria Adult Detention Center, and has been charged by Rosenberg’s office with with traveling to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor and enticement of a minor.
Alicias law is about arresting these predators and making sure that children dont have to go through the same horrible experience that Alicia did, Moran said. By this time next year, there will be dozens more local police departments combating Internet predators. As a former prosecutor, I know that we must give law enforcement the tools to keep the streets safe including the virtual streets on the Internet. These task forces will protect children from unspeakable crimes.
Moran authored Alicias Law to create a stronger statewide network of highly trained law enforcement officers who will track down and arrest online child sex predators. During the most recent legislative session, Moran successfully secured an additional $1.5 million of new funding for the two regional ICAC forces.
The funding will enable member agencies to access technological tools such as specialized software and more advanced hardware to pursue the investigation of these crimes, Capt. Evans said. The training that will be able to be accessed by investigators will result in more success in identifying and removing predators and those who would entice our children into their clutches and their world of depraved behavior,” Evans said.
He applauded Moran’s effort in championing the legislation. “It’s a major step forward in recognizing the seriousness of this issue and doing something about it, he said.
Since 2006, the Department of Justice has identified about half a million child pornographers nationwide and 20,000 instances where computers containing child pornography where identified as being in Virginia. However, local law enforcement only has the resources to investigate two percent of the cases. The new funds will be used to hire new investigators, purchase modern equipment and expand training programs for affiliated law enforcement officers.
“The majority of child protection legislation is named for children who are deceased and address those deficits that were so woefully inadequate in the hopes that others will be spared their tragic fate, said Kozakiewicz, for whom the law is named. This law applauds the excellence of the law enforcement task forces here in Virginia that saved my life and seeks only to ensure, through better funding, that each and every child will have that same quality of specialized intervention.”