TAMPA, Fla. – A former spokesman for Florida's child welfare agency was sentenced to more than 24 years in prison Friday for taking nude photos of teenage boys, including a 16-year-old under the agency's care.
Al Zimmerman's arrest prompted a review of hiring policies and personnel files at the Florida Department of Children and Families to make sure every employee has had a criminal background check. The former TV newsman pleaded guilty in January to a charge of producing child pornography. Other charges were dropped as part of a plea agreement.
Zimmerman apologized to the victims and his family.
"I keep hoping I'll wake up from this, that it's a bad dream," he said. "I've pretty much destroyed my life."
Prosecutors said in court documents that Zimmerman paid one boy for sending him photos and took his own photos of the boy posing nude and masturbating.
The boy told investigators his friends began gathering at Zimmerman's house, where they were given alcohol, the document said. Zimmerman lived in Lakeland in central Florida and part-time in Tallahassee.
Another boy told investigators he photographed himself nude with his cell phone camera on five or six occasions and sent the photos to Zimmerman, who then sent him money.
The documents also detailed explicit e-mails authorities said Zimmerman sent to one of the boys describing poses and activities he wanted in photographs to get top dollar from overseas pornographers.
After learning that he was being investigated, Zimmerman asked a child welfare agency computer technician to throw his home computer in an outdoor trash container so authorities couldn't get access to it, prosecutors said.