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Las Vegas Strip illusionist Jan Rouven fainted Thursday after a federal judge sentenced him to 20 years in prison for possessing, receiving and distributing thousands of videos and images of child pornography.
“In this courtroom, at least, the show is over,” U.S. District Judge Gloria Navarro said.
The judge also imposed a $500,000 fine, which will go to victims.
Moments after the judge handed down the sentence, Rouven fell backward onto the floor, behind his lawyers, who quickly helped him to his feet with the aid of courtroom marshals. He told the judge he was OK and took a sip of water.
Though he pleaded guilty in late 2016, Rouven’s case lingered as he attempted to withdraw his plea, and as he fired and hired various attorneys. He claimed his previous lawyers did not fully explain the possible length of the sentence.
Wearing a yellow jail jumpsuit with the word “detainee” emblazoned in black lettering on the back over a white long-sleeved shirt, Rouven apologized briefly for the crime.
But he spent much of a roughly 10-minute speech to the judge discussing his passion for magic, his love life and a “carefree approach” to methamphetamine-induced partying in Las Vegas.
That lifestyle, he said, impaired his ability “to assess right from wrong and moral from immoral.”
Prosecutors wanted Rouven to serve at least 30 years behind bars, saying he shared his password and collection with others, including an undercover agent, which led to his arrest.
Rouven, 41, was indicted under his full name, Jan Rouven Fuechtener.
“Like most other child pornography defendants, Fuechtener has no criminal history,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Elham Roohani wrote in court documents. “But unlike other defendants who collect and view child pornography as a private deviance, Fuechtener is the exception because he gathered groups of like-minded pedophiles for child pornography viewing events.”
Roohani seemed to choke back tears as she described “heart-wrenching screams” and “whimpering” children suffering rapes on videos found on Rouven’s computers.
Defense lawyer Russell Marsh had asked the judge to sentence Rouven, who used the online alias Lars Schmidt, to eight years behind bars.
“While his conduct was admittedly despicable, he is not a monster,” Marsh said. He called Rouven “a nice guy who did very bad things.”
At the start of Rouven’s 2016 bench trial, which was resolved with his guilty plea, prosecutors said investigators found more than 9,000 videos containing child pornography on nine devices scattered around Rouven’s property.
On Thursday, an FBI agent testified that authorities later discovered 2,600 more files from a Dropbox account that was not presented during the trial.
Rouven disputed the figures, saying that some of the images could have been duplicates.
At his sentencing, he also tried to tell the judge that he “never looked at these videos with gratification.”
Navarro asked why he would watch them.
“Your honor, I don’t know,” he said. “To please others.”
Navarro would later call Rouven a “liar” and “manipulator.” She said she could have sentenced him to more time behind bars but decided on a term that was legally fair, “despite the fact that I don’t like you … despite your shenanigans.”
The courtroom was closed to the public for a portion of the hearing, which lasted about three hours.
Rouven has been in federal custody since March 2016, when he was arrested by FBI agents. The Tropicana Las Vegas canceled Rouven’s show and severed ties with him a day after the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported his arrest.
U.S. immigration officials revoked Rouven’s work visa that year, citing the criminal case and the fact that Rouven no longer had a job as an entertainer.
In court papers, prosecutors described Rouven’s manager-husband, Frank Dietmar Alfter, as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the case.
Both Rouven and Alfter are German citizens, and Alfter since has left the United States. Rouven is expected to be deported after he serves his prison term.
According to a criminal complaint, the investigation of Rouven began in August 2015 when an undercover FBI agent from Buffalo, New York, infiltrated a computer file-sharing network dealing in child pornography.
Investigators later found images and videos — which ranged from five minutes to more than an hour and featured juveniles, adults and animals — on devices in Rouven’s backyard casita, on his pool deck, in his kitchen and in his bedrooms, prosecutors have said.
Contact David Ferrara at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-1039. Follow @randompoker on Twitter.