By Shereen Siewert
A Wausau man will spend three years in prison after an investigation prompted by a cyber tip from a popular social media platform regarding sexually explicit photos and videos of children that were uploaded to their servers.
Brian Shepler, 33, was convicted Monday in Marathon County Circuit Court of two counts of possessing child pornography. As part of a plea agreement, eight additional charges were dismissed.
Police say Shepler uploaded dozens of photos and videos to his Tumblr blog, many of which contained images of prepubescent girls being sexually assaulted by adult men. Tumblr terminated Shepler’s account and turned the files over to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in August 2018.
Investigators say they traced the uploads to a Wausau address belonging to Shepler and his wife. Six officers searched Shepler’s home in the 900 block of S. 11th Avenue in the morning of Friday, Jan. 18, 2019 and seized three cell phones, a laptop and tablet from the residence. His wife and young children were at the home when police arrived, according to court filings.
According to the criminal complaint, an email address on Shepler’s cell phone matched the email address associated with the Tumblr account, connecting him to the uploads. Official charges were filed Jan. 22, 2019.
Tumblr is a microblogging and social networking website founded by David Karp in 2007 and owned by Verizon Media. The service allows users to post multimedia and other content to a short-form blog. Users can follow other users’ blogs.
During a hearing Monday, Circuit Judge LaMont Jacobson sentenced Shepler to three years in prison, which is the mandatory minimum for such crimes in Wisconsin. Judge Jacobson also ordered Shepler to spend four years on extended supervision following his eventual release from prison and remain on the sex offender registry for 15 years.
Shepler, who was free on bond pending trial, was taken into custody immediately for transport to the Wisconsin Prison System for processing.