State official sentenced on sexual exploitation charge

A state juvenile justice who served as superintendent of McLaughlin Youth Center in Anchorage has been sentenced to four years in federal prison, followed by 10 years of supervised release, for possession of child pornography.

The sentence for Dennis Weston, 55, of Anchorage, was handed down on Dec. 24 by U.S. District Court Judge Sharon L. Gleason.

Weston pleaded guilty to the charge in October.

U.S. Attorney for Alaska Bryan Schroder said that at the time of his arrest Weston was the deputy director of the Alaska Department of Juvenile Justice, and in that capacity serving as the superintendent of McLaughlin.

Court documents showed that in April 2017 Weston responded to an online advertisement and began a year-long dialogue with an undercover FBI agent regarding exploitation of a fictional child named “Becky,” among other child exploitation topics.

Authorities said that a laptop seized during a search of Weston’s residence contained 22 images depicting child sexual exploitation and evidence that Weston had accessed the so-called “dark web” by using Tor Browser to search for images of child exploitation. Ten of the images featured children under the age of 12.

Tor is free and open-source software that enables anonymous communication. While the software itself is currently legal in the United States, Tor is sometimes used for illegal activities.