To Catch a Monster, Using Anti-Terror Law

This story appeared in The Star-Ledger on Aug. 14, 2005.

PITTSBURGH — Ten minutes.

The time between dinner and dessert in the home of Charles and Mary Ann Kozakiewicz. The time it took the couple’s 13-year-old daughter, Alicia, to vanish on New Year’s Day in 2002.

Mary Ann Kozakiewicz had been clearing dishes from the table when she saw her daughter leave the dining room. Alicia told her she was going to her room. By the time an apple-walnut pie had been laid out, she was gone.

Her family found no note, no sign of a break-in. On one of the coldest nights of the winter, Alicia’s jacket remained in the closet. A pile of cash — $200 in Christmas gifts — lay on her dresser.

The parents called Alicia’s friends, searched the neighborhood and alerted Pittsburgh police. An officer asked if Alicia had ever run away. Did she use drugs? Was she having trouble at school? No, no and no, the parents said.

The officer recorded their responses, then told the couple Alicia would probably show up in a few hours.

“But we knew she wouldn’t, ” Charles Kozakiewicz said. “We knew she was gone.”

* * *

The search for Alicia Kozakiewicz would involve Pittsburgh police, the Allegheny County Sheriff’s Office and dozens of federal agents. It would also mark the first use of the USA Patriot Act in the Western District of Pennsylvania.

Signed into law six weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Patriot Act was portrayed by the Bush administration as an integral tool to help law enforcement and intelligence services recognize, track and arrest terrorists.

Since then, U.S. officials say, the government’s expanded powers under the Patriot Act have been used to identify foreign “sleeper cells” in the United States, disrupt terrorist financing networks and arrest home-grown militants, among them a Ku Klux Klansman convicted of stockpiling explosives.

Alicia Kozakiewicz at 13.
Alicia Kozakiewicz at 13.

But the law also has been regularly applied to traditional crimes with no connection to terrorism.

While the Justice Department says it does not uniformly track the Patriot Act’s use in such cases, a reading of government reports and congressional testimony shows it has been used hundreds of times against the likes of drug dealers, computer hackers, child pornographers, armed robbers and kidnappers.

In Washington state, investigators invoked the law to surreptitiously bug a tunnel that had been bored beneath the U.S.-Canadian border by drug runners. In Las Vegas, prosecutors used it to seize the financial records of a strip-club owner suspected of bribing local government officials.

One controversial Patriot Act provision, referred to by critics as the “sneak-and-peek” statute because it allows authorities to conduct searches without notifying the targets for a period of time, has been used overwhelmingly in non-terrorist cases, according to a Justice Department letter sent last month to Rep. Robert C. Scott (D-Va.).

The letter, issued in response to questions by Scott and other members of the House Judiciary Committee, said that of the 153 times the provision had been used through Jan. 31 of this year, just 18 cases, or 12 percent, were related to terrorism. The majority involved drug investigations.

That broad application angers civil libertarians and some members of Congress, who contend the Patriot Act’s expanded powers were never meant to be used against common criminals.

Critics note that long before 9/11, the Justice Department sought some of the powers contained in the Patriot Act — among them, broader wiretapping authority and greater access to the customer records of Internet Service Providers — and that Congress, fearing an erosion of constitutional rights, denied the requests.

“When I voted for the Patriot Act, I was voting to give law enforcement the tools they said they needed to keep this nation safe from terrorists, ” said Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.). “I never for a minute thought it would be used in garden-variety crimes or to bring a strip-club owner to justice. Quite frankly, I think it makes a mockery of the Patriot Act to use it for these kinds of crimes.”

Mary Beth Buchanan calls such criticism misguided and wrong.

The U.S. attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania and one of the Patriot Act’s more tireless defenders, Buchanan argues the legislation was necessary to upgrade laws that had grown obsolete in the age of the Internet and to eliminate legal peculiarities that deprived terrorism investigators of tools long available to counterparts fighting traditional crime.

She contends the measure was never intended solely for terrorism, that it is applied with restraint and that not a single case of abuse has surfaced in nearly four years.

“The Patriot Act represents a reasonable balance between protecting Americans from terrorism and protecting liberties, ” she said.

Buchanan has another reason to support the law. As a veteran sex-crimes prosecutor, she has seen firsthand the kinds of miseries people routinely inflict on children.

In the early days of January 2002, Buchanan didn’t know what had become of Alicia Kozakiewicz, but she was determined to use every legal tool at her disposal to find out.

* * *

Mary Ann Kozakiewicz (pronounced Koz-uh-KEV-itch) couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, couldn’t stop herself from picturing her daughter out there, somewhere, in the cold and the dark. Probably afraid. Probably in danger.

Alicia still slept with a night light. When the sun went down, she flipped every switch in the house, lighting it up like a Christmas tree. Mary Ann Kozakiewicz couldn’t imagine her daughter venturing into the night willingly without turning on the outdoor floods.

Now, hours after police had come and gone, the mother sat on a couch in the living room, her eyes locked on the front door, willing it to open.

“Every noise I heard, every car door, I just shot toward the door, ” she would recall later.

Charles Kozakiewicz wanted to run around the streets, shouting Alicia’s name. But he had done that already. Flashlight in hand, he had walked his property repeatedly, searching the snow for footprints.

He checked the house so many times he lost count, hunting for Alicia even in cabinets and under couches — places she couldn’t possibly fit — because he needed to know for sure she wasn’t there.

“You get into a fog, ” he said. “You don’t know what to do. You don’t know what time it is. Time changes for you. There is no time. There’s just, ‘She’s gone.'”

The parents went over the day’s events in their heads, searching for clues. It had been a typical holiday gathering. The couple’s adult son, now living on his own, had visited. So had Mary Ann Kozakiewicz’s parents.

They had watched Cirque du Soleil on TV and talked, the women preparing a traditional New Year’s Day meal of pork and sauerkraut, meant to ensure good luck in the year ahead. As Mary Ann Kozakiewicz put out the good china, Alicia asked if they could use paper plates instead. She didn’t want to wash all those dishes.

A willowy 5-foot-5, with shoulder-length, chestnut hair and blue-green eyes, Alicia looked older than her 13 years. As long as Mary Ann Kozakiewicz could remember, people told her daughter she should be a model, and Alicia had begun to take an interest in it.

At age 12, she had enrolled in a three-month class at a Barbizon Modeling and Acting Center in the suburbs. The course had helped her overcome some of her shyness.

But modeling didn’t define her. She spoke of one day becoming a psychologist. She wrote poetry. She spent hours chatting with friends online. Most of the time, the eighth-grader made the honor roll.

Her home had always been in Crafton Heights, a middle-class neighborhood in the Pittsburgh hills, just west of downtown. Charles Kozakiewicz, a car salesman, believed his children were safe there.

* * *

The arrival of Tom Clinton and Denise Holtz at the home of a missing child can be viewed as a hopeful sign or a bad omen. Hopeful because the two are widely considered dedicated investigators with an impressive record of success.

It’s what they investigate that gives rise to a parent’s greatest fear.

Clinton, a U.S. postal inspector, and Holtz, an FBI agent, primarily chase child pornographers, child rapists, kidnappers and “travelers, ” men who troll the Internet for kids, befriend them and travel across state lines to molest them.

It is not work for the faint of heart.

Clinton, a 56-year-old Pittsburgh native with three grown sons, draws out confessions with empathy he doesn’t feel and with a gentle manner that took years to master. He has viewed thousands of photos and videos he would just as soon forget.

But the assignment is his by choice. He volunteered for the job in 1987, when child porn was still largely transmitted by mail or smuggled in suitcases.

“I know it sounds like Chevrolet and apple pie, but these are people who need to be prosecuted, ” Clinton said. “The victims in these cases are really victims.”

Holtz, a 39-year-old Kentuckian, sought such cases for the same reason after joining the FBI eight years ago. She has been partners with Clinton ever since.

Both are founding members of the Western Pennsylvania Crimes Against Children Task Force, formed with Mary Beth Buchanan to promote cooperation among law enforcement agencies and to provide social and psychological services to abused kids.

Alicia Kozakiewicz came into their lives the morning of Jan. 2, 2002, when a supervisor popped his head into their windowless fourth-floor office at FBI headquarters on Pittsburgh’s South Side. He told them to look into a report of a missing girl.

Holtz and Clinton called Pittsburgh police for a briefing, asking specifically if Alicia spent a lot of time on the Internet. So many of their cases involved the Internet.

She had, the officer told them.

When the pair arrived at the Kozakiewicz home, an FBI computer forensic examiner, Tony Pallone, was with them. They questioned Alicia’s parents, asking them to revisit every moment of the previous days. They also confirmed Alicia’s heavy Internet use.

It was too early in the probe to draw conclusions, but Holtz and Clinton were developing a hunch.

They talked to neighbors and poked through Alicia’s belongings. Next to the teen’s second-floor bedroom, in a combination family room and office, they turned on the computer.

“She had the scanner, the Webcam, all the things that are a recipe for disaster, ” Holtz said. “We knew a clue could be on that computer.”

Pallone, the forensic examiner, began copying files and logs, preserving them for a detailed examination at headquarters later.

Downstairs, Charles and Mary Ann Kozakiewicz gave photos of Alicia to the Pittsburgh media, appealing for help.

Neighbors stopped by, offering comfort and bringing food that would go uneaten. Friends and Allegheny County sheriff’s officers searched the nearby woods and gullies. Mary Ann Kozakiewicz, a stay-at-home mother, felt like a character in a bad TV movie, and she didn’t know how it would end.

“In the back of your mind, you know how quickly children are killed, ” she said. “You know the statistics. It’s a one-in-a-million shot to see your child again. But you have to remain strong. You pray for a happy outcome. You pray for a miracle.”

* * *

Holtz and Clinton knew that children will share with friends information they never would tell a parent. On Jan. 3, 2002, a Thursday, the investigators went looking for Alicia’s secrets at Carlynton Middle School, now back in session after the holiday break.  

One friend said Alicia confided she had recently met someone, a man, in an online chat room. The girl didn’t know a name, but she said Alicia had been communicating with him through instant messaging deep into the night.

“She had been coming into school tired, ” Holtz said. “One of her friends said she had been on the computer until 3 or 4 in the morning. That’s when alarm bells started going off.”

Charles and Mary Ann Kozakiewicz were stunned.

“It was the first I heard of it, ” the mother said. “It made it even more serious. If this indeed was the scenario, if someone had taken my daughter, you know you have an evil person involved. It’s a confirmation of your worst fears.”

The investigation had gained focus, but Holtz and Clinton didn’t have a name.

At FBI headquarters, Pallone searched the hidden recesses of Alicia’s computer, but it wasn’t giving up any secrets. It was almost as if Alicia had covered her tracks. The investigators needed a break.

They got one later that night.

* * *

Holtz’s cell phone rang at 8 p.m. She had just left a retirement party at a downtown restaurant for a popular agent. Now she was headed home through the Fort Pitt Tunnel, one of many passages that slice through the city’s mountains.

Her reception cutting in and out, Holtz had trouble understanding what her office was telling her. Something about a caller in Tampa., Fla., who had information about a missing girl in Pittsburgh. He hadn’t left a name, but he’d agreed to call back.

Holtz wheeled around to collect Clinton at the restaurant.

At FBI headquarters, they learned more from a supervisor. The call had been made to the Tampa office from a pay phone, and the man on the line was afraid.

He’d been instant messaging with an online friend, someone named Scott from Virginia, with whom the caller had become acquainted through bondage and discipline clubs on Scott had been talking for some time about finding a teenage girl to make his slave.

Early on New Year’s Day, Scott had told him, “I think I got one, ” mentioning a planned trip to Pittsburgh. Later, at about midnight on New Year’s Day, as Mary Ann Kozakiewicz was staring at her front door, Scott wrote again.

“I got one, ” the message said. To prove it, Scott posted a Webcam image of a young girl.

The caller still had doubts. Had Scott somehow staged it?

“A lot of the Internet world is fantasy, and the informant in Florida didn’t necessarily believe it was true, ” Holtz said.

Before calling the FBI, the tipster had checked the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Web site. There he found a story about Alicia Kozakiewicz. A photo ran alongside it.

The caller couldn’t remember with certainty Scott’s Yahoo screen name. He believed it contained the words “master, ” “slave” and “girl, ” but he didn’t know in what order. Before hanging up, the tipster said he would get back to them with more information when he could.

At FBI headquarters, Clinton, Holtz and other agents began running the words through a Yahoo tool that allows people to search for screen names. If investigators could learn Scott’s, they might then find clues in a personal profile.

They remained there through the night.

* * *

At 7 a.m. on Friday, Jan. 4, 2002, the tipster called back. Immediately routed to Pittsburgh from the Tampa office, he explained to Special Agent Tom Carter, a supervisor, that he was still nervous. He wanted to come forward, but he was afraid he would be viewed as an accomplice.

Carter worked to soothe him. A former Marine, Carter learned the caller had served in the military, and he used that information to forge a bond.

Bit by bit, over the course of an hour, the man surrendered clues.

Scott lived somewhere in northern Virginia and had talked for at least a year about taking a girl. On Yahoo, he went by the screen name “masterforteenslavegirls.”

With the exact screen name in hand, investigators found Scott’s Yahoo profile. It contained no last name, but it did have photos. One revealed a rotund, mustachioed man, a slight smile on his face as he looked into the camera. Another showed the same man posing before a wall of implements associated with sexual torture.

The caller told Carter the items were in Scott’s basement, his “dungeon.”

There was more, the Florida man said. Scott had sent another image. This time, the girl’s arms were bound, suspended above her head from the ceiling. She had been beaten. And she was crying.

Clinton and Holtz remained calm, but they were deeply worried.

“The caller gave us enough information to know we had a real problem, ” Clinton said. “This kid was in trouble. We had to find her.”

Holtz began dialing the phone. She needed to find someone at Yahoo who could provide the Internet Protocol address of the computer Scott had been using.

Like a fingerprint, an IP address is a marker that can identify, with a simple Web search, someone’s Internet Service Provider. From there, Holtz and Clinton could put a name to the smiling, round-faced man in the photos.

In another office nearby, an FBI supervisor signed a form letter prepared for moments just like this. For the first time in western Pennsylvania and little more than two months after the law had been passed, the investigators would use the Patriot Act.

* * *

Justice Department officials hold up Section 212 of the USA Patriot Act as one of the law’s great success stories, saying it has helped save lives.

Unlike most of the act’s provisions, Section 212 expands the government’s power only indirectly, shielding ISPs and related companies from civil liability if they voluntarily share customer information with law enforcement in emergencies.

Before the law went into effect, Internet Service Providers generally refused such requests for help unless a search warrant or grand jury subpoena compelled their cooperation. That’s because disclosing a customer’s name or the contents of e-mail — even if a life was at stake — theoretically exposed ISPs to lawsuits.

Similarly, if an administrator at Yahoo or Google, both of which provide popular Web-based forums, stumbled across a murder plot in an e-mail or a chat room, he or she might be loath to pass it along to police.

Section 212, one of 16 Patriot Act provisions that will expire at the end of the year if Congress does not renew them, was designed to address that problem.

It allows ISPs and companies that provide services on the Web to disclose information without fear of legal action if they have a “reasonable belief” someone is at risk of “immediate death or physical injury.” Such disclosures may be made to any federal, state or local law enforcement agency.

Congress granted even greater protection to ISPs with the Homeland Security Act of 2002, which amended Section 212. The revised measure changed the legal standard for disclosure from a “reasonable belief” of danger to a “good-faith belief.”

“A lot of people think that’s a big difference, ” said Beryl Howell, former general counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Democrats and one of the party’s chief negotiators on the Patriot Act. “A reasonable belief requires a little more due diligence.”

The Homeland Security Act changed Section 212 in another important way, broadening it so that emergency disclosures may be made to “any government entity.” That could mean the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, even a local mayor’s office.

The Justice Department has not publicly said how many times it has used Section 212. A report on the provision remains classified, a spokeswoman said.

In unclassified reports and in appearances before Congress, government officials have said only that it is used “often, ” and they cite examples of the provision’s successes. Most of the examples have nothing to do with terrorism.

Among them is the nationally publicized murder of Bobbie Jo Stinnett, a Missouri woman whose unborn child was cut from her womb and stolen in December 2004. Examining Stinnett’s computer, federal investigators discovered a suspicious e-mail and, using Section 212, traced it to a Kansas woman who authorities say tried to pass the baby off as her own.

It’s hard to argue with such results, and most critics of the Patriot Act don’t try, but they still call the emergency disclosure provision a deeply flawed measure that puts unchecked power in the hands of law enforcement and guts the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment, which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures.

When an ISP turns over e-mail or customer names under the provision, it does so without the benefit of a grand jury subpoena or a search warrant, both of which require some evidence that a crime has been or will be committed.

Customers whose information has been disclosed are notified only if it becomes evidence in court. And the government need not report to Congress or the public how often it asks for disclosures.

“There are no checks and balances, ” said James Dempsey, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington, D.C. “I call it off-the-books surveillance because no one will know about it. Not a judge. Not a grand jury. Not the person whose privacy has been violated. It’s as if it never happened.”

In the absence of oversight, he argues, too many questions go unanswered. What’s to stop an FBI agent, a city detective or a small-town cop from calling something an emergency when it’s really a fishing expedition?

Critics also would like to know more about when the provision is applied. If authorities are going directly to ISPs for help during business hours, when judges are readily available and grand juries are in session, that could suggest an attempt to avoid standards of evidence.

Despite concerns about the measure, Section 212 has not generated the kind of raucous debate swirling about higher-profile Patriot Act provisions, and it appears it will stand permanently.

Last month, within three weeks of the terrorist bombings in London, both the House and Senate passed separate bills reauthorizing most of the act’s provisions, including Section 212. Congress must reconcile minor differences between the two after returning from its August recess. The Bush administration has asked Congress for a bill the president can sign on Sept. 11.

* * *

Denise Holtz stabbed at the numbers on her phone with mounting frustration.

It was 8 a.m. in Pittsburgh — 5 a.m. at the Sunnyvale, Calif., headquarters of Yahoo — and she couldn’t get a human being on the phone. The investigators had finally caught a break in learning Scott’s screen name, and now Holtz was wasting time bouncing around in voice mail.

With Holtz at a dead end, the Pittsburgh bureau’s special agent in charge, Jack Shea, woke up his counterpart in Sacramento, laid out the case and asked if he had a contact at the Internet firm.

He did.

“Make it happen, ” Shea said. “We need this.”

A Yahoo vice president called back at about 9:30 a.m., Pittsburgh time, and told Holtz he had dispatched an employee to the office. There the employee was met by a faxed letter, signed by the FBI supervisor in Pittsburgh, advising him of Patriot Act Section 212.

By 11 a.m., Yahoo faxed back a 10-digit number, the IP address of Scott’s computer. An agent immediately ran a Web query to find his Internet Service Provider.

It was Verizon.

As Holtz called the company, an assistant U.S. attorney obtained a subpoena from a sitting grand jury in Pittsburgh. Because it was now during business hours, the Patriot Act was no longer a necessity, Buchanan said.

At 11:30 a.m., a Verizon representative in Texas gave Holtz the words she had been waiting three days to hear.

Scott William Tyree.

* * *

Criminal profilers say men who lure children bring a specific psychology to the hunt for victims.

They flatter. They search for weak spots — family problems, troubles with classmates — and exploit them. They become confidants, presenting themselves as an alternative to the drudgery and constraints of school and home.

Investigators call it “grooming, ” and for more than four weeks as 2001 came to a close, Scott Tyree used it to full effect on Alicia Kozakiewicz.

The two had come across each other in a chat room in late November or early December. Before long, they were communicating frequently, often for long stretches.

Twice married and divorced, Tyree was a 38-year-old California native who had spent much of his life working with computers. As a young man, he took them apart and put them back together. As an adult, he programmed them. As a pedophile, he used them to spread the gospel of sadism and to seek out young girls, authorities say.

He moved east in the mid-1990s, paying $1,000 a month in rent for a townhouse in Herndon, Va., a pleasant suburb of Washington. He worked as a programmer at the Herndon office of Computer Associates International, a firm based in New York.

He had a 12-year-old daughter, who lived with Tyree’s first wife in California.

Alicia saw him as a friend.

“She confided in him, ” said Buchanan, the U.S. attorney.

If Alicia had a bad day, she told him about it. After she argued with her brother during one of his visits, Tyree stoked her indignation.

“He would say, ‘I understand. It’s terrible that he treats you that way, ‘” Clinton said.

At the same time, Tyree maintained caution, teaching Alicia to “wipe” her computer, eradicating traces of their online talks.

On New Year’s Day, as Tyree’s daughter was finishing a visit, he arranged to pick up Alicia a block from her home. At noon, he dropped off his daughter at the airport. Between 2 and 3 p.m., he left for Pittsburgh in his black Mitsubishi Eclipse, collecting toll receipts along the way.

Between 7 and 8 p.m., as her mother rinsed the dishes, Alicia quietly slipped out her front door.

* * *

As the sun rose on Friday, Jan. 4, 2002, Charles Kozakiewicz felt his strength slipping away. He hadn’t slept since New Year’s Eve.

“When you get tired, the hope starts to go away, ” he said. “Things were not looking good.”

He was terrified the phone would ring, that someone on the other end would give him bad news. And yet he wanted it to ring with word of something different.

In the early afternoon, the phone did ring. It was the FBI, summoning the couple to headquarters. There was a possible development.

They didn’t ask for details, afraid of the answer.

The 20-minute ride passed in silence. Mary Ann Kozakiewicz believed Holtz and Clinton would tell her Alicia was dead, that her body had been found in some shallow grave. For her husband’s sake, she didn’t speak the words aloud.

“It would have hurt him more, ” she said, “and I couldn’t go there.”

At FBI headquarters, a bland white rectangle on the edge of the Monongahela River, the parents were led to a conference room.

They waited.

* * *

Denise Holtz didn’t know if Alicia was alive or dead.

Some 240 miles to the south, in Herndon, Va., a team of police officers and FBI agents from the Washington field office was due to hit Tyree’s townhouse.

Holtz had asked her D.C. colleagues to call immediately afterward. Now, more than 30 minutes past the scheduled entry, the wait was excruciating, and Clinton, on an assignment in court, wasn’t there to calm her.

Doubts kept flitting through her mind. Did they have the right address? Were they in time?

FBI agents crowded into the office and spilled out the door. Each time the phone rang, they jumped.

The Pittsburgh bureau’s assistant special agent in charge pushed his way in at 3:30 p.m.

“They found her, ” he said. “She’s alive.”

The room erupted in cheers.

In Virginia, the agents had smashed through Tyree’s front door, guns drawn. They found Alicia cowering in a corner of an upstairs bedroom. A chain extended from a collar around her neck to an eyebolt in the floor.

Tyree had left the house that morning, telling Alicia he would hurt her if she tried to escape. When the FBI agents burst through the door, she thought it might be him, coming back to kill her.

* * *

She’s alive.

Charles and Mary Ann Kozakiewicz savored the words.

“It was such a dumbfounding statement, ” the mother said. “It’s as if she had come back from the dead.”

Charles Kozakiewicz felt the terror drain from his body.

“The missing, as bad as that was, this was the total opposite, ” he said. “It was the happiest feeling in the world.”

Holtz raised Clinton on the phone, delivering the news.

“Yeah, ” he said. “Now let’s get this son of a bitch.”

At 4 p.m., a second team of FBI agents arrested Tyree at work. In an hours-long interview with agents from the Washington field office, he confessed.

Alicia was taken to a local hospital for an examination. She was not seriously injured. At Manassas Regional Airport, she was reunited with her parents in a private room.

“We just hugged each other, and that’s a hug you never repeat, ” Charles Kozakiewicz said. “If that feeling of joy were out there all over the place, there would be no wars. That hug made life worth living.”

* * *

It is impossible to know with certainty whether the Patriot Act saved Alicia’s life.

Her mother thinks so.

“There’s at least one American citizen who’s going to grow up and go to the prom and have a life because of the Patriot Act, ” she said.

Some critics of the law are respectfully skeptical, saying that what the Patriot Act achieved might have been carried out in the same time frame — or close to it — using standard legal procedures.

“Warrants are issued every day in this country very quickly, ” said Lisa Graves, senior counsel for legislative strategy at the American Civil Liberties Union. “Every court has an emergency judge you can call in the middle of the night. These can be approved over the phone. When time is of the essence, this is not an elaborate process.”

Buchanan said she can’t speculate on what Tyree might have done given more time. She’s glad she didn’t find out.

“In cases like this, hours matter. Minutes matter, ” she said.

Tyree, now 41, pleaded guilty to two federal counts — sexual exploitation of a minor and travel with intent to engage in sexual activity with a minor — in March 2003. A judge sentenced him to 19 years and seven months in prison.

Authorities say there is no indication he abused his daughter.

Alicia is now 17. Last year she began speaking to student groups about her experience to warn them about the dangers of the Internet, and she has become a member of Teenangels, a national online safety group based in New Jersey.

On May 25, she addressed a gathering of youth groups in a U.S. Senate caucus room and presented an award to the law enforcement team that rescued her. During the event, she met Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, giving him a teddy bear to pass along to President Bush.

She named it “Patriot.”

Editor’s note: This account of Alicia Kozakiewicz’s disappearance and rescue is based on more than 12 hours of interviews with her parents, with U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan and with the lead investigators, FBI Special Agent Denise Holtz and U.S. Postal Inspector Tom Clinton.

Reconstructions of certain events and conversations are drawn from these interviews.

The Star-Ledger does not routinely print the names of sexual assault victims.
In this case, the newspaper has done so with the permission of Alicia’s parents and because she has become an advocate for online safety, speaking publicly about her experience. Her name and photo were widely displayed in the Pittsburgh media at the time of her disappearance.

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