Former OPETH Bus Driver Sentenced In Porn Case

According to TampaBays10.com, the former tour bus driver for the Swedish experimental heavy metal band OPETH was sentenced to 25 years in prison Friday (June 30) on a guilty plea to a child porn charge, the U.S. Attorney's office announced.

Leon Rodney Whitman Jr. (photo, charge report), 47, was arrested in Tampa last November 13 while the band was in town for a performance.

Police said a 16-year-old girl found wandering the streets told them Whitman had flown her to Tampa from Michigan, and had taken pictures of her to "build a portfolio for her to become a model."

But, police said, he video taped himself having sex with the girl.

Prosecutors said Whitman admitted he had engaged in sexual acts with the girl in Michigan and Tampa, and admitted making the videos.

He pleaded guilty to production of child pornography on April 6.

Whitman was already in the county jail on three counts of computer pornography and one count each of unlawful sexual activity with a minor and interfering with custody.

Police said Whitman's camera contained more than 200 lewd pictures of several females, some of them authorities believed were underage.

In a November 16, 2005 posting on the band's official web site, OPETH mainman Mikael Åkerfeldt had this to say regarding the incident:

"As reported on Blabbermouth, our busdriver on the last North American tour was arrested in Tampa/St. Petersburg, FL for 'unlawful activity with a minor.' Basically, we're appalled by the fact that we'd employed this bastard and even more disgusted by his deeds and obviously we will be much more detailed in our background check for future employments. The driver introduced himself only as 'Rod' and seemed like a nice guy, even though for us he was just another driver, and a bad one as well! He said he owned a trailer company and that he was a drummer, playing with TED NUGENT and several other bands in the '70s. We got suspicious that he couldn't get into Canada (we had another driver there) due to some previous drug 'misdemeanors.' Myself and Peter [Lindgren; guitars] met him and the girl in the elevator of the hotel where he introduced her as his niece. She seemed distant, asking us if we smoked pot. 'Rod' told us he was driving her to Los Angeles. After the gig, he never returned to the bus and then we got the news that he'd been arrested. Luckily for us one of NEVERMORE's crew was able to drive us back to the hotel. The next day the FBI stopped our tour manager outside the bus with a warrant to search the bus for 'Rod's' laptop and camera. We feel genuinely happy that he is caught and behind bars where we hope he will stay for a long time."

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