Columbus takes part in Operation Shattered Innocence

By Laurie Bernstein - bio | email

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Investigators with the Georgia Bureau have been executing search warrants across the state of Georgia. So far, the three month porn investigation yielded 21 arrests across the state and the confiscation of at least 80 computers.

Officials dubbed the investigation: Operations Shattered Innocence: "Young children. Adults having sex with young children."

In Columbus, five search warrants were executed, but only two Columbus men are behind bars, both charged with sexual exploitation of children.

Columbus Police officers found pornographic images of young girls on the computers of Michael Mays and Steven Commander, after executing search warrants Tuesday as part of Operation Shattered Innocence, which netted 21 arrests around the state.

"A large part of these were movies or still images. Most were accessed through network sharing programs," said Columbus Police Lt. J.R. McMichael.

It's all the culmination of a three month undercover investigation by the GBI, targeting the state's growing market for child pornography.

"We saw everything from still pictures of naked children of varying ages to a lot of different child porn movies involving vaginal and oral intercourse," said John Whitaker, Special Agent in Charge of the GBI's Hi-Tech Unit.

"All of it was disturbing, any right minded individual would find it all very disturbing," said Lt. McMichael.

These days, sexual predators are operating exclusively in the online world, thinking they won't be caught.

They have to watch out though, with an explosion of new computer forensic technology, investigators are starting to catch up to them.

"It's not a free zone. It may appear that way when they're on the Internet, maybe they feel they have anonymity, to do or say whatever they want, but it's not necessarily so," said Lt. McMichael.

This investigation is not over by any means, GBI agents are waiting on more forensics tests to come back the computers they seized during the operation.

They expect at least five or six more arrests this week in different areas of the state.

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