Susanville man pleads guilty to producing sexually explicit images of niece

Ronald E. Bernal, 48

SACRAMENTO — A Susanville man pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to two counts of the production and possession of child pornography.

According to Assistant United States Attorney Laurel D. White, who is prosecuting the case, Ronald E. Bernal, 48, admitted to taking photographs of his 5-year-old niece in June 2008 when the girl was visiting him and his wife in Susanville, in Lassen County. His wife reportedly learned of the photographs when she found a digital memory card that her husband had dropped, and then viewed the images on the card.

She later reported her findings to Lassen County sheriff’s deputies, who referred the case to the FBI after their initial investigation.

Bernal, who is in custody, is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 11, 2010. He faces a mandatory 15-year minimum to a 30-year maximum term in prison for the production charge, and a maximum 10-year term in prison for the possession charge. Each charge also carries a possible fine of $250,000; a $100 special assessment; and a five-year-to-life term of supervised release. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables and any applicable statutory sentencing factors.

The defendant has also agreed to forfeit the digital camera and equipment he used in furtherance of his offenses and to pay restitution to the victim of his offense.

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