Navy sailor called 'vile, inhuman creature' sentenced to 210 years for rape and assault of infants, toddlers

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Jun. 23—Navy sailor Randall Tilton was sentenced to 210 years in federal prison Tuesday for the sexual abuse of seven infants and toddlers in a case U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Meyer and government prosecutors called the worst of its kind they've ever seen.

Before Meyer sentenced Tilton, parents of several of the victims spoke either by Zoom or in person at the federal courthouse in New Haven, where Tilton sat, dressed in prison garb, wearing a face mask.

One mother described him as "a vile, inhuman creature."

"I don't wish you death, but a long life full of pain," another said.

A father who addressed the court struggled to deliver a profanity-laced condemnation of Tilton.

"I beg of you, your Honor, don't ever let him out," a mother of one of the victims said. "He belongs in the general (prison) population, and I understand what that would mean for him and I don't care."

Tilton, 32, delivered a statement in which he apologized to the victims.

"It's not just the production of child pornography, the video, images, for your own satisfaction, which is not even a charge in this case," Meyer told Tilton before pronouncing sentence. "What really sets it apart is the scores and scores of hands-on acts of sexual abuse of seven children — much worse than hands on — that goes on for year after year. ... And for some of these children, it's rape, there's no other word for it — rapes of children who knew you and who you knew could not complain."

In arguing for a 30-year sentence, Moira Buckley, the federal public defender representing Tilton, said, "We're asking for daylight at the end of the sentencing tunnel. ... His life is going to be one long prison term whether he's in prison or out."

Meyer told Tilton he was troubled by his choice of victims — "children under your complete whim and control" — and was not persuaded to be lenient by Tilton's military service or by the fact he has not been convicted of other crimes. The judge said he was not confident that Tilton would be rehabilitated in prison and was concerned that if Tilton were released in his 50s, he could still inflict harm.

"I also think about the peace of mind of the victims," Meyer said. "I heard them loud and clear."

Meyer adopted prosecutors' recommendation that Tilton serve his sentence at Federal Medical Center, Devens, a federal prison in eastern Massachusetts for male inmates requiring specialized or long-term medical or mental health care.

The sentence includes an order that Tilton pay more than $900,000 in restitution to his victims.

Tilton, a New Hampshire native who was stationed at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton aboard the USS South Dakota as a machinists mate 1st class, waived his right to be indicted and pleaded guilty in December to child pornography offenses related to his sexual abuse of two infants as young as 4 months old and five toddlers, most of whom were about 3 years old when Tilton's abuse of them began.

The criminal activity spanned three states — California, New Hampshire and Connecticut — over the course of eight years.

Tilton violently raped the two infants and published videos he made of his abuse to the dark web. He took pornographic photos of a Navy comrade's 4-year-old daughter at a BBQ and raped and recorded videos of the 7-year-old daughter of a local woman he met on a dating app.

Tilton told investigators he abused his first infant victim more than 300 times. His rapes became increasingly violent, prosecutors said, and a video of his rape was viewed more than 100,000 times on the dark web. In forums on the dark web, Tilton spoke publicly about how much he enjoyed what he did.

"While it is hard to imagine what would lead a person to sexually abuse any child, it is inconceivable that a person could be so inherently evil as to prey upon infants. Randall Tilton, however, is the personification of that very evil," Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy V. Gifford wrote in a 25-page sentencing memo filed with the court this month.

"It is difficult to overstate — or even to adequately state — the horrifying nature of Tilton's crimes," Gifford wrote in the memo, which at one point describes Tilton's crimes as "among the most horrific seen in this district."

In imposing the maximum, 210-year penalty — 30 years for each of seven counts — Meyer adopted the prosecutors' sentencing recommendation. In seeking a 30-year sentence, Tilton and his attorneys had submitted a letter Tilton wrote to the judge in which Tilton calls his actions "selfish, destructive, unnatural and wrong."

Prosecutors said that in another letter Tilton wrote from prison to someone he considers his grandfather, Tilton described his abuse — and how much he enjoyed it — in great detail.

"Tilton's own words, captured in comments he made in forums on the dark web and chilling letters sent from prison, demonstrate that he reveled in the abuse and brutality he inflicted," Gifford wrote.

Meyer referred to Tilton's letter to the grandfather figure as "that remarkable letter you wrote."

Tilton confessed to Groton Town Police that he had assaulted his first victim when she was 6 months old, and investigators obtained 35 videos and 66 images of that abuse over the course of several years. The abuse only ended when Tilton was arrested, prosecutors said.

Investigators found more than 8,000 videos and photos of infants and toddlers being sexually abused in Tilton's possession.

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