Feds charge Baltimore SWAT cop for child pornography

BALTIMORE, MD  – A federal criminal complaint has been filed charging Donald Hildebrandt, age 51, of Bel Air, Maryland, with the possession and production of child pornography and obstruction of justice.

The federal charges were announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Jonathan F. Lenzner; Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; Colonel Woodrow W. Jones III, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police; Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey R. Gahler; Lieutenant Paul Marziale of the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, Director of the Harford County Child Advocacy Center; and Harford County State’s Attorney Albert J. Peisinger, Jr.

Hildebrandt is a Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) officer with the Baltimore City Police Department and is currently suspended without pay.  According to the criminal complaint, on October 18, 2020, law enforcement received a complaint that Donald Hildebrandt had been discovered in a room with a minor female with his erect penis exposed.  Another minor had reported the incident.  During an interview at the Harford County Child Advocacy Center (CAC), one of the minor victims disclosed that Hildebrandt exposed himself to her and demanded that she engage in sexually explicit conduct with him.

As detailed in the affidavit, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Hildebrandt’s home on October 20, 2020 and seized several electronic devices.  A forensic examiner subsequently decrypted a file found on Hildebrandt’s laptop computer and discovered videos allegedly documenting the sexual abuse of a minor female.  Another nearly three-hour long video discovered on Hildebrandt’s laptop depicted a compilation of multiple instances of child sexual abuse, including prepubescent victims. Additionally, over 100 still shots believed to be derived from covert video recordings allegedly taken by Hildebrandt were uncovered by investigators.  The images included two minor female victims, including some images displaying their breasts and genitalia.

In January 2021, a witness informed investigators that Hildebrandt had reset his tablet.  A forensic review of the previously seized tablet showed signs consistent with a factory reset.  In Hildebrandt’s iCloud account, analysts also discovered a web address to an anonymous communication network within Hildebrandt’s notes application, which opened to a child pornography website.  The website allowed customers to anonymously purchase child pornography with cryptocurrency.  The site claimed to be a “safe zone for pedo folks.”

If convicted, Hildebrandt faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison for production of child pornography; a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison for possession of child pornography; and a maximum of 20 years in federal prison for obstruction of justice.  Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.  No date has been set for Hildebrandt’s initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.  Hildebrandt remains detained on related state charges.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.  For more information about Internet safety education, please visit www.justice.gov/psc and click on the “Resources” tab on the left of the page.

Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended HSI, the Maryland State Police, the Harford County Sheriff’s Office, the Harford County Child Advocacy Center, and the Harford County State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in the investigation and prosecution.  Mr. Lenzner thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel A. Loveland, Jr., who is prosecuting the federal case.

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