A Kansas City man pleaded no contest Wednesday to 21 federal charges accusing him of lacing ice cream and soda with sleeping pills, giving them to young girls and making pornographic videos of them.
James Phillip Edwards, 61, could spend the rest of his life in prison. U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple entered a judgment of guilty on all the counts against him.
Prosecutors said Edwards admitted giving 13 girls ages 6 to 13 years old Ambien and other sedatives between July 2001 and June 2005 and creating multiple videos of him molesting them.
Whipple said it's rare for someone to plead no contest in his courtroom, but that he approved to prevent the victims from having to go through what could have been a lengthy trial.
Edwards was found guilty of 12 counts of producing child pornography, one count of attempting to produce child porn and five counts of giving the victims a controlled substance without their knowledge to facilitate a crime of violence. He also was found guilty of one count each of advertising child pornography over the Internet, attempting to distribute child porn over the Internet and possessing child porn.
The federal public defender representing Edwards could not be reached for comment late Wednesday afternoon. The office was closed, and the attorney did not immediately return a phone message left by The Associated Press.
Edwards was caught after sting operations by two separate agencies in 2009 led investigators to seize his computer, on which a forensic examiner determined Edwards had downloaded child porn using a peer-to-peer file-sharing program.
It was during that time that investigators found a file called "Consuming the Date Rape Drug," which began with an explanation that "the girls would be given a date rape drug in soda and separately with ice cream."
That file showed three girls sitting on a bed that looked like one in Edwards' south Kansas City basement.
Another computer file had a photo collage named "Phil's Kindergarten Class Ages 4-7" that showed five girls in separate photos lying on the same bed, naked from the waist down.
Prosecutors said that during forensic interviews, some of the victims recalled having ice cream-eating contests at Edwards' house. None of them knew they were being drugged.
Prosecutors have not disclosed the relationship between Edwards and the girls or how he got them into his home.
Other material found on Edwards' computer included "How to Molest Young Girls," a guide with specific information about dosage amounts and other instructions for drugging and molesting children, prosecutors said. Another document titled "Pedo Handbook" included a section titled "Drugging Children and Preteens."
Edwards told investigators in a videotaped interview after his October 2009 arrest that he didn't believe what he did was wrong.
"His view is that society places arbitrary lines (as in age restrictions) around sexual conduct, with which he doesn't agree," assistant U.S. attorney Katharine Fincham wrote in a pretrial detention motion.
Under federal guidelines, Edwards could be sentenced to mandatory minimum sentences of 15 years in federal prison for each of the 11 counts of producing child pornography and the one count of attempting to produce child porn.