FAIRFAX, Va. (WRIC) — A Fairfax man will serve 16 years in federal prison after he solicited sexually explicit images from at least six minor victims he met online through a popular gaming app.

Brian Scott McGalem, 24, pleaded guilty to attempted production and possession of child pornography after he contacted at least six minor victims through the social media app Discord, among others, and struck up friendships with them, which he exploited to pressure them into sharing sexually explicit images.

The Investigation

According to court documents, McGalem was found out after he sent a gaming headset in the mail to a minor victim living in Frederick County, Maryland. The victim’s mother, not recognizing McGalem’s name or address, checked her son’s Discord messages, finding deeply inappropriate messages sent by a man under the moniker “Random Hipster#2429.”

Among the messages were pornography, images of the sender’s own penis and repeated requests for the minor victim to take and send sexually explicit photos of himself. At multiple points, the victim says — and “Random Hipster” acknowledges — that he is 11 years old. In fact, the victim was just 9.

A search warrant executed on Discord in 2021 turned up a backlog of messages between the two — and revealed an email address associated with the account. Using the address on the package, the email address turned over by Discord and a phone number sent to the minor victim, police obtained a search warrant for Brian McGalem’s home in Fairfax.

Upon questioning, McGalem admitted to using Discord under the name “Random Hipster” and confirmed that he had sent a FedEx package to a minor living in Maryland. A search of McGalem’s computer uncovered not only that he was the one who had messaged the victim in Maryland, but that he had additional child pornography on his computer.

In total, police determined that McGalem had solicited sexually explicit images from at least five other minor victims over Discord and other social media apps, some of whom provided it and some of whom refused.

A Fair Sentence?

For the crimes he was convicted of, McGalem could have faced anywhere between 15 and 50 years.

In a sentencing letter, prosecutors called for McGalem to be sentenced to 30 years in prison, with a lifetime of supervised release afterward, citing the heinous nature of his crimes and the impact they would have on his victims for years to come.

“First, he befriended them and sought to enmesh himself in their lives, then sexualized the relationships and [escalated] their intensity, followed ultimately by his attempts to exploit the children,” the prosecutor wrote. “One of the most chilling aspects of the defendant’s crimes is the way that his smooth, practiced words precisely targeted the interests and emotional needs of the boys whom he was exploiting.”

They added that a lifetime of supervised release was the only way to ensure that McGalem would not have the opportunity to re-offend.

McGalem’s attorney, on the other hand, called for him to be given a sentence of just 16 years — one more than the mandatory minimum. The attorney related a version of McGalem’s childhood intended to evoke sympathy with its depiction of a physically abusive mother and traumatic sexual experiences.

“Obviously, the harm Brian experienced doesn’t absolve him of his crimes, but it should have some mitigatory effect on this Court’s deliberations,” the letter reads. “Hurt people often hurt people.”

That was an argument that evidently resonated with the court, which imposed a sentence of just 16 years, far below that recommended under sentencing guidelines.