Ukrainian Musician Gets Deported to His Home Country

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US Federal Court Orders Deportation of Victor Stepus, Ukrainian Musician from Chicopee, MA to His Home Country.

РУССКИЙ | УКРАЇНСЬКОЮ

In November 2019, Protestant musician Victor Stepus pleaded guilty to three counts of receiving child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. On March 6, 2020, a US District Court sentenced Mr. Stepus to seven years in prison and ten years’ probation. On March 18, 2020, Mr. Stepus filed an appeal, which he soon withdrew of his own volition.

Protestant musician Viktor Stepus is a citizen of Ukraine who was sentenced to seven years in a US prison for downloading, viewing, and possessing child pornography. The FBI found hundreds of photos and videos of child porn on the musician’s electronic media. In a conversation with an FBI agent, Stepus admitted to downloading child pornography on the Russian segment of the darknet.

At the end of his sentence, in early 2021, the US Department of Homeland Security initiated the procedure for his deportation. This was reported by Stepus’s lawyer, Daniel Marks, in an affidavit submitted to the court. According to the US government, Stepus’s presence in the country poses a danger to its residents.

“For the last several years, he used his home computer to access and download child pornography two to three times a week when his wife was at work. He accessed and downloaded the pornography through several TOR sites using the username zombe008. He was sexually attracted to girls between the ages of 12 and 15 and often masturbated to child pornography depicting girls in this age range,” according to FBI Agent Ian Smythe.

In addition, the FBI reports that the Christian singer has a drinking problem and once even beat up his stepdaughter. Stepus’s wife told intelligence agents about the strained relationship with her husband.

“She caught Mr. Stepus cheating twice and continued to live with him because the divorce process was too expensive, and they stayed together for the sake of their children.”

Mr. Stepus spent the last years of his incarceration in a private facility in Phillipsburg, Pennsylvania. His estimated release date was August 6, 2021.

In early 2021, Mr. Stepus submitted a written request to Leonard Oddo, the administrator of a private prison facility at CI Moshannon Valley, for compassionate release due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Stepus’s petition reported that a total of 216 inmates and three Federal Bureau of Prisons employees had already died from COVID-19. Through his attorney, Stepus asserted that he had certain health problems and was therefore at risk of contracting the coronavirus.

“Mr. Stepus will never again live in the United States, nor will he ever have to support himself here. Requiring a foreign national facing removal, such as Mr. Stepus, to submit a ‘proposed release plan’ in order to be considered for compassionate release is a Kafkaesque exercise that serves only to create a predetermined bureaucratic justification for denying relief (e.g., there is no acceptable release plan). Given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the impending closure of Moshannon Valley CI … it must be decided as soon as possible whether Mr. Stepus is eligible for compassionate release,” the filing said. “As Mr. Stepus agreed when he pleaded guilty, he viewed child pornography on the Internet while in his own home. Mr. Stepus had never molested or abused children, and he felt remorse for what he had done. After being taken into custody on August 21, 2015, Mr. Stepus has already served over 65 months. He has only six months remaining on his presumptive release, which is less than eight percent of his 84-month sentence. Mr. Stepus has no record of disciplinary infractions.”

The facility administrator refused to comply with this request because Mr. Stepus had not provided “[proposed] plans for his release that detailed, inter alia, where he would live and how he would support himself.” Moreover, according to the court, Mr. Stepus did not have significant health problems that would affect his parole.

Because of his immigration status and criminal record, Mr. Stepus should have simply been transferred from the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons to the custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement for further removal from the US to Ukraine, according to the case file that reached the editorial board of Slavic Sacramento.

While behind bars, Stepus was advised to undergo a sex offender treatment program and, upon release from detention, to surrender a DNA sample to the appropriate authorities.

“If deported from the United States, you may not return to this country without authorization from the Secretary of the United States Department of Homeland Security,” the rock musician’s file reads.

According to US Federal Bureau of Prisons records as of January of this year, Stepus left the walls of the US penitentiary in August 2021. Federal Judge Mark G. Mastroianni affirmed the decision to deport Stepus.

It is noteworthy that Stepus worked closely with Ukrainian and Russian-speaking Protestant churches in the United States, speaking to youth on television and radio. After his arrest, Ukrainian pastors in the US filed a petition with the court requesting that Stepus be released to the church. However, the judge hearing the case rejected this request.

Ruslan Gurzhiy, SlavicSac.com