A world-renowned doctor who developed vaccines to fight disease in Third World countries was sentenced Wednesday to 21 years in prison for traveling to Alaska for the purpose of raping a young boy.
Dr. John Mark Felton, 48, could provide no real explanation for how he could have spent his career bettering the lives of hundreds of thousands of people suffering from tropical diseases and at the same time be a pedophile, engaged in what the judge described as deviant conversations in an online chat room and willing to do serious, lifelong harm to children. "Somehow I completely and utterly lost my way," the British native told U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline. "How on Earth did I allow myself to behave this way?"
Beistline asked Felton how he became a pedophile. Felton said when he was in the child sex chat rooms with hundreds of other people, the "sick conversations" he was having didn't seem real. People in the chat room tried to out-shock each other, he said.
"You would be amazed at what people say in there, "Felton said. "You get caught up in it."
Felton said he doesn't believe he would have harmed the boy once he made his way to Alaska in 2009.
But Beistline said no one knows for sure what Felton would have done if the child had been real and not part of an undercover sting. Felton was arrested at the Anchorage airport after his flight arrived from Boston.
"Everyone agrees, including you, that you are a pedophile," Beistline said. "You were way into this stuff."
When arrested, Felton had compiled a child pornography collection of at least 1,276 images of children being abused and 71 videos. He admitted making a video of himself having sex with a 15-year-old boy.
"Felton is a person with a long-standing sexual interest in children that he has satisfied, and attempted to satisfy, both through hands-on abuse and through accumulation of a treasure trove of child sexual abuse images and videos," prosecutors said in a court document referring to a psychological evaluation done as part of a plea agreement.
Felton at one time lived in a luxury condominium in Boston's exclusive Back Bay neighborhood. He was vice president of clinical operations at a vaccine development company in nearby Cambridge, Mass.
His interest in children, prosecutors say, was both sexual and sadistic. He lacks empathy toward child victims, they said.
According to prosecutors, Felton was in a child-sex chat room in 2008 when he engaged in a conversation with a man he believed was offering his 5-year-old grandson for sex. The man was actually an undercover agent.
When Felton arrived in Alaska, he had a child's Spiderman costume in his luggage and condoms, prosecutors said.
Felton avoided a trial by pleading guilty last year to traveling to Alaska to engage in illicit sexual conduct.
"This is a man who has provided treatment for diseases that devastate Third World countries," attorney Steve Wells told the judge. "They live better lives because of Dr. Felton."
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly R. Sayers-Fay said Felton's desire to rape a child had been months, if not years, in the making. "He was cultivating relationships with pedophiles all over the world," she said.