Man accused of child abuse images escaped prosecution due to glitch
A California father who was arrested last week after authorities said he uncovered more than 900 child sex abuse images was also accused in 2018 of having ‘several hundred’ similar images – but he has Escaped prosecution over an alleged computer glitch, a law enforcement official said.
Ryan Rovito, 34, of Redding, is charged with criminal possession of child pornography and surreptitious recording after his wife gave police a camera she found hidden in the couple’s guest bathroom and a Hard disk.
In 2018, his previous wife also went to authorities and reported he had photos of “prepubescent juveniles” on his computer, Sgt. Rob Garnero, a Redding police spokesman.
This case got lost in a new software system and was not forwarded to the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office until November, a spokesman for the prosecutor’s office said.
The software “had some errors when launched,” Garnero said, adding that the police department’s records division noted in its internal software in December that the previous case had been lost.
When police filed the current case against Rovito, they found the first – “and that’s when we found out that this case was never fully uncovered when it was diverted,” said Garnero.
Ryan Rovito did not respond to multiple attempts to ask him for comment. His attorney, Timothy Prentiss, said Rovito maintains his innocence.
“From his perspective, he is prepared to challenge these allegations, and we would prefer to do so in the court system,” Prentiss said.
Prentiss said he was unaware of the 2018 allegations.
Police said there was a three-year statute of limitations for the 2018 case, which had expired by the time the issue was discovered. But the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office said Thursday the case fell within a 10-year limit.
“We will need to conduct further investigation to review the matter before making any filing decisions,” a DA spokesperson said.
Rovito’s ex-wife, who authored the 2018 report, could not be reached for comment by phone or email Thursday. Court records show she filed for divorce in April 2019.
His current wife, Victoria Rovito, said if authorities had prosecuted him in 2018, her family’s lives may never have been “turned upside down and broken”.
“I understand that mistakes happen, but these things can’t slip through the cracks,” Victoria Rovito, 33, said in an exclusive interview this week. “It could have been someone’s life. It could have been many people’s lives.”
She said she was unaware of the previous allegations until police told her about them this month and has since shared them with the National Guard, with whom she said Rovito had served.
A National Guard spokesperson posed questions to a California National Guard spokesperson, who did not immediately respond to questions Thursday.
“This situation did not seem unfathomable”
When Victoria and Ryan Rovito met in 2021, he seemed like the perfect match: he got along well with her son, who is now 3, and would “literally do anything for me”, she said declared. They tied the knot less than a year later, she said, marrying in February 2022, and they welcomed a daughter seven months ago.
“It just seemed perfect,” she said.
So when she found a hidden camera in the guest bathroom of their home in Redding, about 160 miles north of Sacramento, and authorities later told her he allegedly had hundreds of images of child sexual abuse on her hard drive, she was in “absolute shock”.
“This situation didn’t seem unfathomable to me before this,” she said.
Redding Police say when Victoria Rovito first found the camera and confronted her husband, Ryan Rovito “swore to remove it and dispose of it”.
She found he hadn’t thrown it away as promised, and on March 8, she gave police the camera and hard drive, “concerning that Mr. Rovito had harmfully recorded their young children in using the bathroom,” the police department said.
Authorities said they conducted a forensic analysis of the devices and found hundreds of sexual abuse photos and several videos. Garnero said Wednesday the police department is still examining devices at Ryan Rovito’s residence.
Police said video obtained from the camera “showed children and adults using the bathroom who did not appear to know they were being recorded”.
Rovito was taken into custody on March 16, during a traffic stop, for criminal possession of child pornography and the surreptitious recording of an identifiable person undressed.
He posted $25,000 bond the day of his arrest, Garnero said.
If convicted, Rovito could face 16 months to eight years in prison, said Garnero, who added that he could also be sentenced to probation and made to register as a sex offender for life instead of face a prison sentence.
Rovito could also face up to a year in county jail for surreptitious recording, which is a misdemeanor under California law, Garnero said. But he added that “this scenario is unlikely because Rovito has no criminal history”.
He is due in court on April 21, Garnero said.
“We must protect our children”
Victoria Rovito sought and was granted a temporary restraining order against her husband the day after his arrest, according to court documents.
She is focused on rebuilding her family’s future: “I feel like our lives have been torn apart,” she said.
A GoFundMe campaign set up by a friend says the money raised will go towards living expenses and legal fees: “By doing what was right, she ended up with a lot of needs,” he says.
In the meantime, Rovito hopes that by sharing her story, she can show others how to protect their children in the event of sexual abuse.
“Once I realized what was happening, I didn’t want it to happen to anyone else, and that was my deciding factor,” she said.
About 25% of girls and 1 in 13 boys in the United States experience sexual abuse, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In more than 90% of these cases, the perpetrators are known and trusted by the children and their families, according to the CDC.
“It could be a family member, an extended family, a coach or a doctor – someone who doesn’t raise any flags to be near the child,” said Scott Berkowitz, President and Founder of Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. , an anti-sexual violence organization better known as RAINN.
Berkowitz said it’s crucial to teach children to alert trusted adults if they are experiencing sexual abuse. Adults should take a “safety first” approach by keeping children away from the vicinity of perpetrators, paying attention to their psychological needs and alerting the appropriate authorities if that’s an option, Berkowitz said.
Victoria Rovito agrees: “We have to protect our children. They can’t protect themselves,” she said.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673. The hotline, run by the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), can put you in touch with your local rape crisis center. You can also access RAINN’s online chat service at https://www.rainn.org/get-help. Confidential chats are available in English and Spanish.