CNA Staff, Feb 8, 2021 / 07:01 pm (CNA).- Pro-life organizations have reacted to the arrest and apparent confession of a former employee on child pornography allegations, emphasizing the need to ensure that children are protected.
Ruben Verastigui, 27, allegedly distributed, received, and possessed child pornography between April 2020 and February 2021. He was arrested in Washington, D.C. Feb. 5 and admitted to receiving some child pornography files, a criminal complaint in the U.S. District Court of Washington says.
He is a former employee of the pro-life group Students for Life, though the charges do not include activity in this time.
“Ruben Verastigui worked for Students for Life from Sept. 5, 2014 to Dec. 2, 2016, following some engagement when he was a student himself. He worked in an office doing graphic design and had no oversight or management of students,” Kristi Hamrick, spokesperson for Students for Life of America and Students for Life Action, said Feb. 6.
“We have no knowledge of the allegations that we learned about today, the events of which took place after his tenure,” she said. “Students for Life and SFLAction have numerous policies and practices in place to protect students and believes that crimes against children must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Students for Life and Students for Life Action works every day to protect children and condemns those who harm them in any way.”
Verastigui worked as a digital strategist for the Senate Republican Conference last year and most recently was employed as a communications manager for Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions, a nonprofit that engages Republican policymakers and the public about “responsible, conservative solutions” to energy matters, its website states.
He spoke at the National March for Life in 2013, and was identified as the president of the Students for Life group at Northwest Vista College, which is in San Antonio. His LinkedIn page indicates he worked for Texas Right to Life from 2014 to 2015. In 2013 he worked for several months at LiveAction, and he interned at the Susan B. Anthony List in 2012.
Investigators said they found “several files of child pornography” on his cell phone and a chat conversation that discussed exchanging files and videos, the Washington Post reports. His alleged involvement was discovered during a Homeland Security investigation into an online group of over a dozen people involved in exchanging child pornography. Verastigui used the pseudonym “Landon” and the handle “@somethingtaken” during his involvement in the group, referred to as “Application A.”
Investigators said he “admitted that he used the username Landon and that he had been part of the group on Application A and had received child pornography during the time he was a part of that group,” the Washington Post reports.
According to records of an April conversation, which include graphic descriptions, Verastigui allegedly told another user he sought out pornography involving sexual assault of babies. The user sent him a graphic video and other illicit video clips. The records say Verastigui asked the user to come to Washington to sexually abuse a minor.
On Feb. 6 the group Rehumanize International, whose stand against aggressive violence includes opposition to abortion, cited reports of Verastigui’s arrest and admission to the crimes. It described him on Twitter as “someone who has participated in Rehumanize International events in the past.”
“We are sorry if you or your children came into contact with Ruben Verastigui via any of our events,” said the group. It stressed the importance of adults learning about sexual abuse prevention and linked to a 2018 Parents magazine story about child protection.