Former school district superintendent sentenced to prison for child pornography

Daniel Peggs faces 8 years in federal prison for recording sexual acts with 17-year-old girl

A gavel in a courtroom.
Joe Gratz (CC0 1.0)

Editor’s note: This story contains language and descriptions surrounding sexual assault and trafficking.

A former Wisconsin school district superintendent has been sentenced to spend eight years in federal prison for possession of child pornography. The sentence is part of a broader sex trafficking investigation that spanned multiple states.

Former School District of Altoona Superintendent Daniel Peggs was indicted by a federal grand jury in February 2020 on charges of sex trafficking of a minor and using an iPhone to produce a video of child pornography. The sex trafficking charge against Peggs was later dropped.

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A statement from Timothy M. O’Shea, acting U.S. attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, states the case came to investigators’ attention in January 2019, when a 20-year-old woman reported she had been the victim of sexual exploitation by several men when she was 17 years old.

O’Shea said the victim met Bryan Ragon of North Carolina in September 2015 when he was performing at a Minnesota renaissance fair. Not long after, Ragon started posting the girl on Craigslist.com in Wisconsin for group sex.

The statement said Peggs, who used the alias Jake Thompson, responded to one of Ragon’s ads. Peggs then recruited other men for group sex, rented a hotel room in Rice Lake where he met the girl and recorded the sexual activity. Peggs began communicating directly with Ragon, according to O’Shea, to arrange group sex encounters and continued to meet with the victim.

Ragon was sentenced in the Western District of North Carolina to 20 years in federal prison and 30 years of supervised release.

In addition to the eight-year prison sentence, Peggs has been sentenced to an additional 10 years of supervised release.

O’Shea said that Judge James Peterson noted during sentencing that while Peggs pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography, the heart of the case was the production of images of child pornography.

“Judge Peterson also found that the defendant was systematically dishonest and his claim that he didn’t know the victim was a minor was not particularly credible,” said O’Shea. “The court found that Peggs was willing to do whatever it took to have sex with the minor, regardless of the risk.”

Cat Morgan is the community program specialist for Altoona based, anti-sex trafficking advocacy group Fierce Freedom and was at Peggs’ sentencing. She told WPR the sentencing was a long time coming.

“I think it just draws attention to the fact that we really need to move forward with legislation in Wisconsin that supports victims of trafficking who are minors,” said Morgan. “Because they are seen as a perpetrator, still, and they need to be protected.”

Morgan said a bipartisan bill was introduced by Wisconsin lawmakers in March of this year. That bill would bar prosecutions of anyone under the age of 18 for prostitution. A public hearing for the bill was held in September but wasn’t taken up by either the full state Senate or Assembly before the end of the legislative session.

Morgan said the Peggs sentencing is another example of why such a law is needed in Wisconsin.

“So even in this case, they would refer to her as a prostitute, like a 17-year-old prostitute,” said Morgan. “That is incorrect. She was a child sex trafficking victim who was exploited for her vulnerabilities by an older man who utilized those against her.”

Morgan said her group would like to visit school districts, including Altoona, to educate kids about the warning signs from people intending to groom them for sex trafficking. She said shielding kids from learning about sex trafficking can make them more vulnerable.