The former managing director of the Lone Star Film Society won’t be getting out of prison any time soon.
A district judge showed leniency during the 2011 sentencing of John Storm, but the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles wasn’t so inclined. The board recently denied Storm’s parole, and he won’t be up for another review until next year. Storm has served half of his two-year sentence after being convicted of possessing and directing child pornography last summer (“Directing a Horror,” March 28, 2012).
“After a thorough review by the panel, it was determined that due to the nature of the offense committed and other factors, he is still a threat to public safety,” a state parole board spokesperson said in an e-mail statement. No further details were provided about the board’s meeting with Storm.
The board will review Storm’s case again in April 2013 — and if he’s not paroled then, he will be out a few months later anyway: Barring an early release, he’s due to complete his sentence on June 28, 2013. Afterward, the court will monitor him for 10 years.
Monitoring Storm is important, in part because of his military intelligence background, said Assistant Tarrant County District Attorney Marty Purselley, who prosecuted the case.
“I would bet he could figure out a way to get online undetected,” Purselley said. “I’ve been doing this a while, and I’ve not seen a case quite like this or a defendant quite like him. He was very intelligent and manipulative. It’s a dangerous combination.”
In prison, Storm is housed in a dormitory-style building with dozens of other inmates and works on the field squad at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Gurney Unit in East Texas.
“He works in the field — agricultural-type things, clearing weeds, plowing fields, clearing out storm drains or creeks, clearing fence lines,” said prison spokesman Jason Clark.
Inmates at the Gurney Unit arise each day at 3:30 a.m., eat breakfast, and then work until about 10 or 11. After lunch, inmates are allowed recreation time and a shower. The prison is not air-conditioned, and there is no computer access, but inmates can watch television in a community day room, Clark said.
Purselley expressed relief that Storm was denied parole. A two-year sentence isn’t punishment enough to fit the nature of Storm’s crime, he said.
“What he did was extraordinary,” the prosecutor said. “He’s going to be supervised by the court once he gets out, but every bit of time served will hopefully be a deterrent and there won’t be recidivism.’’
Storm’s imprisonment came as a shock to many who knew him, including his co-workers at the Fort Worth-based nonprofit film society. He submitted a vague resignation letter on July 1, 2011, saying he was quitting due to “family problems.” The letter asked that co-workers make no attempt to contact him. They tried anyway but couldn’t locate him.
People who know Storm described him as a highly organized and energetic go-getter. His background as a military intelligence officer prompted some people to wonder if he’d gone off on a secret assignment. Instead, as it turned out, he’d been arrested for a horrific crime, admitted guilt, allowed a judge to determine his sentence, and quietly gone to prison.
Storm’s downfall began in 2009 after he logged on to an internet chat room and watched via webcam as a Florida man sexually abused his own young daughter. Florida police arrested Michael Duane McMillan of Lake City later that year after receiving a tip that McMillan was abusing the little girl. McMillan admitted sexually abusing his 6-year-old on camera and told police that a Benbrook man using the name Davidoff1200, watching on a webcam, had directed him on how to perform the abuse.
Police confiscated McMillan’s computer and used his chat-room name — Noleboy7 — to continue corresponding with Davidoff1200. They exchanged e-mails about explicit sexual fantasies. Florida police identified Storm as Davidoff1200 and notified the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office.
Purselley, who prosecutes computer sex crimes, said he had never seen a case of child sexual abuse being directed across state lines by two adults with webcams.
Benbrook police arrested Storm at his home. DA investigators confiscated his home computer and found numerous images of child pornography. Storm admitted to possessing child porn and to directing the sexual abuse of McMillan’s daughter. He pleaded guilty and agreed to be sentenced by District Judge George Gallagher.
Gallagher said afterward the he too had never seen a similar case. He was surprised by Storm’s background — the well-groomed nonprofit official had no previous criminal convictions and an impressive military record. Gallagher handed down a 10-year sentence in July and monitored Storm’s behavior for a couple of months.
Prison officials said Storm was a model prisoner who stayed out of trouble. In December, Gallagher reduced Storm’s sentence to two years, plus 10 years of probation after he is released. The judge hoped to shock Storm with a prison stint and then give him a chance to rehabilitate himself while under 10 years of supervision.
Purselley said Storm should have served the full 10 years.
“I thought at the time there was an opportunity for a message to be sent to this guy,” Purselley said. “He was very evasive under cross-examination, and he was minimizing [his guilt]. It’s not like he came in and accepted responsibility; it was more like he was justifying his behavior. He needs something on the high end of the sentencing.”
Purselley finds some satisfaction in knowing that Storm will be monitored and undergo sex offender counseling that includes periodic polygraph testing after his release.
“It does seem to be effective,” he said. “[Storm] will go back into society, and at least we’ll have a finger on where he is.”
Storm’s ex-wife is another person who is glad that his parole was denied. She divorced him in 2005 after discovering his fondness for online sex and child pornography. She did not want her name used in this article.
“I’m glad they denied him,” she said. “He needs to serve what he deserves. He got off easy.”
Meanwhile, the Lone Star Film Society has moved forward without Storm. Co-workers said they knew nothing of Storm’s criminal activities, which occurred outside of the workplace. They continue to prepare for the 6th Annual Lone Star International Film Festival in November at Sundance Square.