Ricky Labrew, 36, of Ridge Spring, S.C., pleaded guilty in Richmond County Superior Court to 56 counts of sexual exploitation of children.
"You gave these children a life sentence. I'm tempted to give you a life sentence," Judge Duncan D. Wheale told Mr. Labrew on Friday.
Assistant Attorney General Kimberly Schwartz said the case started with a tip from Yahoo about certain images being uploaded.
The tip was forwarded to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and agents followed the trail to a computer Mr. Labrew used in his job as a project manager for the Georgia Department of Transportation, Ms. Schwartz said.
Mr. Labrew downloaded thousands of images of adults engaged in sex with children as young as infants, Ms. Schwartz said. He was accused of having saved, sorted and named files of child pornography.
The Center for Missing and Exploited Children has been able to find some of the abused children in seven different states and six foreign counties, but some have not been found, Ms. Schwartz said.
"It brought tears to my eyes," Judge Wheale said of the images.
Ms. Schwartz asked the judge to consider that the children are victimized every time someone views the images, and that the images show the victims being controlled and physically hurt. Mr. Labrew not only collected these images, he also sent them to others, she said.
Defense attorney Maureen Floyd asked the judge to consider mercy.
Mr. Labrew was relieved when he was caught in May 2004, she said. He immediately went into counseling for sex offenders, and there is no evidence he has looked at child pornography again, Ms. Floyd said.
Mr. Labrew told the judge he was disgusted but couldn't stop until he was caught. Now it tears him apart to think he could have looked at such abuse, Mr. Labrew said.
In explaining his 30-year sentence, Judge Wheale said a message needed to be sent.
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ABOUT THE CASE
Ricky Labrew, 36, a worker with the Georgia Department of Transportation, was sentenced for collecting child pornography on his computer.
PROSECUTION SAID: Mr. Labrew not only collected these images, he also sent them to others.
DEFENSE SAID: Mr. Labrew was relieved when authorities caught him and immediately went into counseling for sex offenders.