A former Omaha Police officer caught with 150 images of child sexual abuse, including images he created, was sentenced Monday, with the mother of his victim asking the judge to give “this monster” the maximum sentence “for the sick, twisted, evil acts he committed.”
Christopher Groth sat in an orange jail jumpsuit in U.S. District Court in Lincoln as the woman told the judge it makes her physically sick to hear her daughter explain what Groth did to her.
“Although no sentence will ever be enough punishment for what he has done, I ask you to please keep this child predator behind bars,” she said in a tearful statement.
Groth had taken an oath to serve and protect his community, she said, “and he defiled it.”
Groth was an Omaha Police officer for 15 years, when in February 2022 he was arrested on a federal indictment. He later pleaded guilty — without a plea deal — to producing an image or images of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor between September 2020 and December 2020, and possessing dozens of others on June 3, 2021.
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On Monday, his attorney, Carlos Monzón, suggested Groth was a “good but broken man” suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder because of what he’d seen on the job. He turned to a fetish, child erotica, as an outlet.
Groth responded to the shooting at Von Maur where eight people were killed. Got a life-saving medal for saving a woman who had slit her throat and slashed her wrist. In 2008, he guarded two of serial killer Anthony Garcia’s victims, among them a child who had been stabbed.
“I can only imagine the PTSD that Mr. Groth may have in this case,” Monzón said. “I’m not arguing to you that his actions should at all be excused. No. What he did was wrong, and he should be punished. But the issue is for how long?”
He argued 15 years was reasonable and comparable to sentences in state court.
On the other side, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tessie Smith argued for 50, saying “we’re not in state court.”
She said the government is sympathetic to Groth for having to endure the trauma he did through his position; but it does not excuse his conduct.
“Of all the people who should know never to sexually abuse a child or seek out child pornography, the defendant was at the top of that list. And in this case, he didn’t stop at just collecting images,” Smith said.
She said on at least two occasions, he sexually abused a young child and recorded it.
“As the defendant has argued, some would label him as a community hero. Well if these are the actions of a community hero, then who as a society can we trust,” Smith said.
Groth apologized to his family and relatives, the community, the victim and her mother.
“There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t regret the decision I made,” he said. “I know that what I did is wrong, and I can only imagine the effect it’s having.”
Groth said in jail two days after his arrest, he was a mess because of what he’d done and heard a voice.
“And for the first time in my life I heard God talk to me. He said three simple words: ‘Turn to me,'” he said.
Groth said he believes God has forgiven him and hopes all those involved will one day, too.
In the end, Senior U.S. District Judge John Gerrard called the production case and the violation of trust one of the most egregious he’s seen before sentencing him to 30 years for it and 6 years more for the images he had possessed after getting online.
There is no parole in the federal system.
“You truly were Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” the judge told Groth. “Needless to say, it’s Mr. Hyde being sentenced here today.”
Gerrard said, as for the graphic situations Groth has seen through his job, “None of that provides any type of justification or excuse for this crime. Not even close.”
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