A Sound Beach man who has been convicted several times since the mid-1980s of molesting children apologized to his victims in writing before being sentenced Friday to 35 years in federal prison for producing child pornography.
"How do you say you are sorry for doing such a horrible crime? I guess it's 'I'm sorry and forgive me,' " Joseph Burkett, 43, wrote in the statement, a portion of which was read aloud in the Central Islip courtroom by his attorney. "I'm not sorry because I got caught. Believe it or not, for that I am grateful.
"I'm sorry for robbing you of your innocence, trust and childhood."
Defense attorney Randi Chavis said Burkett is genuinely contrite and has been learning to cope with his obsessions since 2007, when he received therapy in jail following his arrest by Suffolk police on the charges. Chavis noted that Burkett had been abused by relatives from age 5 until he was 13.
U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley, in imposing the lengthy sentence, agreed that Burkett appeared to be genuinely contrite and spoke of the defendant's continual abuse as a child.
"His life has essentially been a horror, and he understands . . . that he put [his victims] in a position where they are going to suffer for many years," Hurley said.
The judge, noting that pedophiles have a high recidivism rate, said, "I am not uncomfortable with the length of this sentence, because, when all the dust settles, I think we understand, and I think Mr. Burkett understands now, that the focus has to be on the victims. We have to prevent youngsters in the future being victimized by Mr. Burkett."
Burkett, a clerk in a Setauket deli before his arrest, declined to comment beyond his written statement before he was sentenced.
When he was arrested by Suffolk authorities in 2007, Burkett was charged with paying a 14-year-old boy to pose for pornographic pictures and engage in a sex act, and paying a 12-year-old boy to pose for pornographic pictures, according to the Suffolk County district attorney's office and federal prosecutors who took over the case.
Police arrested Burkett after receiving an anonymous tip from a mother who said he had solicited her son. He was not a registered sex offender because his previous convictions predated Megan's Law.
In 1986, Burkett pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child and received 3 years' probation, and in 1988 to felony sex abuse involving a minor, for which he served 6 months in jail. State records show he had addresses from 1986 until 2007 in Huntington Station, Deer Park, Nesconset, Lake Ronkonkoma and Rocky Point.
"This case should serve as a warning to anyone committing a child sex offense - especially those who have previously committed child sex offenses - that federal penalties are severe, deservingly so in this case," Assistant U.S. Attorney Allen Bode said.
Hurley said that when Burkett is released, he should be under permanent supervision of probation officers, register as a sex offender, not be permitted near areas where children congregate, and not be allowed to have access to Web sites used by children.