Faced with court transcripts that contradict them at most every turn, the gay owners of Brushstrokes continue to spin narratives about a child porn conviction hoping they can explain it away. It's not working.
But as the facts of the case continue to drip out, Mark Jackson (photo left) and Tom Schloeder (right) keep revising their versions of what took place in the lead up to Schloeder's child porn conviction last week. They ignore a court record that includes Schloeder's past conviction for a sex offense involving a child. And they keep feeding their evolving stories and false accusations to Fenuxe, which has gobbled up every detail as it grandstands about providing “every side of the story” without really doing so.
The latest installment came Friday as Schloeder crafted a new stream of details to soften the brunt of transcripts released by the U.S. Attorney's office from his guilty plea on May 2 and his sentencing on July 10. It boils down to pitching himself as the victim of a child molester, or an embarrassed adult that knows better, or the victim of a vengeful prosecutor. None of it is supported by the facts of the case that Schloeder has repeatedly agreed to in court.
We've collected the most egregious claims offered up since Schloeder's sentencing — a Facebook post from Fenuxe, a two-paragraph statement from Brushstrokes, Jackson's tearful explanation and Schloeder's convenient confessional. We've contrasted those with court transcripts, though sometimes even their own statements contradict one another. It's a duality that will make your head spin.
Tom Schloeder's falsehoods
This is back in 2006 when I was in Phoenix for my 40th birthday. Someone from when I was very young…we were childhood friends. I’ve known him since kindergarten. We used to fool around. I thought it was perfectly natural. I thought everyone [fooled around]. I didn’t know someone was recording it, taking lots of movies and stills.
When the Brookhaven home of Jackson and Schloeder was raided in November, police found thousands of images. Setting aside technology limits of the early 1970s, when Schloeder implies this took place, there is no mention in court proceedings that any of the images include Schloeder. Nothing from the prosecutor and nothing from Schloeder, who had opportunities to address the court.
There was a file — but it wasn’t sent to me. I searched for it. But, Mark still doesn’t understand how that all works. I tried to explain that to him last night. It wasn’t a man who sent me a file. This was someone that I knew in school who had told me about the files.
Prosecutors, according to court transcripts, say Schloeder actively pursued child porn images since at least 2006. His stash included images with infants and animals.
“You also have a situation where you have an individual who is just not collecting child pornography, but also some of his collecting child pornography is extremely young children,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Steinberg said during Schloeder's sentencing. “There are examples in the PSR of infants which is truly extraordinary. There is an example, an example that's given of a four to five month old infant with a penis being forced into his mouth. That's egregious. All these cases are bad, but these kind of examples, the kinds of things that the defendant collected are just particularly awful. There's an example in paragraph 20 of actually a bestiality video of a child and a dog.”
So, I started looking for these files trying to identify me or anyone I knew. I came across several of me being abused.
In the two court proceedings, Schloeder never says the images were of him. In detailed descriptions of the images, prosecutors do not mention that Schloeder is depicted in any.
The U.S. Attorney had all of this evidence. It didn’t matter if I was depicted in it or not. I had it and that’s all they cared about. I was looking at a maximum of 25 years and they offered me 8, so I took it. That’s why it didn’t go to trial. None of this was brought up.
Schloeder cooperated throughout the investigation, from the moments in November when police raided his house — he admitted the child porn images and videos were his, not Jackson's — through his guilty plea to his sentencing. In fact, that played a role in him receiving an 8-year sentence, which was at the low end of a sentencing recommendation. But again, he never raised the issue under oath that the images were of him. He saves that assertion for media interviews in which he can't perjure himself.
The images, it’s … they’re despicable. Disgusting. And it became my obsession. I was looking for people I knew – anything connected to me. I don’t even remember a lot of this in the pictures. There’s a huge blank memory for that period of time. It wasn’t until I got with my therapist that I started dealing with things in my past.”
More of Schloeder's claims that he's the victim, an assertion that he did not make in court.
The prosecutor didn’t do anything wrong. They did their job. They didn’t suppress anything – they had an airtight case.
Schloeder contradicts that with his own words:
I really hate the fact that [the U.S. Attorney’s Office] identified me as an owner of Brushstrokes – they could have left that out. They were trying to not only damage my reputation, but damage the business, and my husband.
Damage his reputation? Court proceedings show that he did that on his own. “So, again, you don't have a situation where someone says, you know, I've done it once and you've caught me. You have someone who is a contact offender and someone who's done it, you know, for six years before he's in fact caught and stopped,” Steinberg said during the sentencing hearing on Wednesday.
“He has a very extensive collection. Obviously numbers alone are not always probative as we find because someone could have these mass downloads, but in this case we have someone who has it on two, at least two, if not more, pieces of computer equipment. So we don't have pornography just on his desktop computer for example. We also have it on an external hard drive which shows him basically moving it from place to place, very deliberate activity on his part, and there's a large quantity of it,” she added.
Schloeder was a co-owner of Brushstrokes at the time of his arrest and the U.S. Attorney's office included that in a July 10 press release they issued about the case. They routinely include professional background about offenders when the publicize a case, which they regularly do when an arrest is made, a guilty plea is accepted or a sentence is handed down. Jackson is not mentioned in the press release, though transcripts of the two court proceedings show that Jackson is treated respectfully and with deference by prosecutors and U.S. District Judge Orinda Evans.
Mark is the innocent one in all of this. I relayed false information to him.
Jackson stood by his man after the sentencing, offering that he wouldn't if Schloeder was “actively engaging in child pornography.” But Jackson never mentions Schloeder's prior conviction for child exploitation. He also doesn't explain lapses in his timeline of events.
Schloeder also mentioned that a local gay media outlet “knew about this entire situation since last November. And [they] sat on it because Brushstrokes is an advertiser.”
Schloeder, convicted for hoarding child porn, now wants to lash out at Project Q Atlanta, which Fenuxe happily supports, and lie about the circumstances of discussing the raid and his arrest with the media outlet. Jackson informed Project Q of Schloeder's arrest, but did so during an off-the-record conversation, which means that details of the discussion could not be reported unless they came from an independent source. That happened on July 10 when the U.S. Attorney announced Schloeder's sentencing and Project Q was the first media outlet to report it.
Brushstrokes was an occasional advertiser with Project Q after Schloeder's arrest and before his sentencing last week. Jackson attempted to leverage the store's advertising to shape coverage of the case in his off-the-record conversation, but was told repeatedly that Project Q would cover the case when it learned about it from another source.
In Jackson's initial conversation with Project Q about the case, or subsequent ones, he did not say that Schloeder was in the images he had collected nor did he mention Schloeder's assertion that he was molested.
Distortions from Fenuxe
Tom Schloeder, co-owner of Brushstrokes and Capulets, has been indicted on a technicality with charges regarding underage pornography. Is this another attempt by the City if Atlanta to shut down a gay adult business?
Fenuxe posted that to its Facebook page on July 10 after Schloeder was sentenced. It's factually inaccurate, something the gay glossy acknowledged after two days of criticism from readers. Schloeder wasn't indicted on July 10, he was sentenced. (He was indicted in February.) He pleaded guilty and agreed to the facts of the case spelled out in a 14-page plea agreement.
Schloeder was investigated and arrested by DeKalb police working with the Atlanta office of U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations. Atlanta police had nothing to do with it. And there's not even a whiff of a hint in court proceedings of any effort by anyone targeting Brushstrokes. DeKalb police were alerted to the child porn Schloeder collected by electronic traces embedded in it.
Claims from Brushstrokes
Prior to the arrest of Mr. Thomas Schloeder, neither Brushstrokes nor Mark Jackson had any knowledge of Schloeder's offenses. In an effort to distance his personal legal troubles from that of the business, Schloeder sold his ownership interest in Brushstrokes in 2012.
Jackson claims he didn't know of Schloeder's collection of child porn, but his explanation to Fenuxe detailing the case includes a timeline that doesn't adhere to the facts of the case. He mentions Schloeder suffering “a complete meltdown” that required treatment at a hospital for two days when he received the images, which he claims were all sent at once. But Jackson does not mention if he sought an explanation from Schloeder about what prompted the near breakdown. Court transcripts show Schloeder agreeing that he had been collecting the images and videos since 2006.
The store, in its statement provided by Jackson, says Schloeder divested his ownership interest in 2012. Jackson claimed that was the case in a phone conversation with Project Q on July 10. But that ownership change was never announced publicly prior to Schloeder's sentencing nor did Jackson or Schloeder mention it during scores of informal meetings with Project Q in the months after the November raid. And in press announcements on unrelated matters from the store, issued after Schloeder's arrest when he supposedly sold his ownership stake, Schloeder is portrayed as a co-owner with Jackson.
During the May guilty plea, Schloeder’s own attorney, Barry Hazen, refers to Schloeder as still running the business he shares with his partner. That comes months after Schloeder, according to Jackson's statement from Brushstrokes, sold his ownership portion in 2012.
As a condition of his bond, Schloeder has remained an employee until he reports to a federal correctional facility in August. Following yesterday's sentencing, Schloeder will no longer work onsite at either store.
Schloeder remained employed at Brushstrokes after his arrest as a condition of his bond. He also had a curfew, which dictated he remain at his home between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., and had to wear an electronic monitoring device. During the May 2 hearing, Hazen asserted that Schloeder “has to stay away from the business,” an apparent reference to Pleasures, the company's store that sells sexual items and rents gay porn. But he made a request that Schloeder be allowed to “go into the adjacent section, the non-sexual area” to perform four hours of computer work.” Yet Schloeder routinely worked in Pleasures, which does not have a non-sexual area, after the November raid. Schloeder was on hand in June when Pleasures hosted celebrated its expansion.
During a July 10 call to Project Q, Jackson even objected to this sentence from a Project Q story that same day: “Schloeder, who has continued working at the store and its sibling sex shop Pleasures since his arrest, was on hand in June when Pleasures celebrated its expansion and remodeling.” Jackson didn't dispute the accuracy of the statement; instead he said it would cause “problems” with the case.
Mark Jackson's fables
Tom was molested as a child and he didn’t know it was being photographed
There is no mention of this assertion in Schloeder's 14-page plea agreement nor was it raised by Schloeder or prosecutors during his May 2 plea hearing or July 10 sentencing, even when asked by Evans if he had any comments to the court.
40 years later, Tom was sent a strange file. The came from another man who had also been molested. Not knowing what was in it, he opened it and saw pictures of himself being molested.
Prosecutors said Schloeder collected thousands of images since 2006. In fact, the sheer quantity of images and video impacted the recommendation for Schloeder's sentence. Schloeder never said under oath that he was in the images and videos; neither did prosecutors in their detailed descriptions of what Schloeder collected.
We hired the best attorney we could afford who explained to us that because we’re openly gay men who own an adult business that we would be paraded around in a courtroom circus, our business would be destroyed, and at the end of the day Tom still had the images on his computer, so he was going to prison. The attorney told us Tom could spend 25 years in prison just because these images were on his computer.
Hazen declined comment to the GA Voice about Schloeder's case. But when Schloeder pleaded guilty on May 2 and was sentenced two months later, there is no anti-gay circus unfolding in the federal courtroom. Schloeder is treated with respect and on at least two occasions, Jackson is pointed out as Schloeder's partner. During the guilty plea, the judge grants a request from Schloeder to allow him to travel to Arizona and Kentucky with Jackson to visit their ailing mothers. Schloeder is also allowed to remain free on bond after his arrest, after his guilty plea and again after his sentencing last week before he reports to federal prison in August. The U.S. Attorney's office, which handled the case, is the same office that earlier this year pursued the first anti-gay hate crime prosecution under federal law in Georgia.
Evans could have sentenced Schloeder to a maximum of 20 years in prison and fined him up to $250,000. Instead, she sentenced him to the low end of a recommendation from prosecutors of 8 to 10 years in prison, and fined him $75,000. Hardly the approach of an anti-gay prosecution aimed at taking down a longtime gay business and its owners.
Tom plead guilty, but in reality the only thing he was guilty of was not calling the police about the photos because of the deep shame he felt about being molested. If I thought for a moment that my husband could be guilty of actively engaging in child pornography I wouldn’t stand by him. My husband is not a bad man.
Jackson didn't mention Schloeder's past conviction as a “contact offender” who exploited a child, an issue that was discussed during the July 10 sentencing that Jackson attended. And again, the case record included no admission from Schloeder or prosecutors that the images and videos were him.
And when asked by the judge on July 10 if he wanted to make a statement before his sentencing, Schloeder did not allude to any of the assertions that he or Jackson offered in later media interviews. His own words:
The court: thank you. Mr. Schloeder, would you come on up to the podium please. Would you like to make a statement before I impose the sentence?
The defendant: The only thing I would like to acknowledge is what I've done before is I accept my responsibility to this. I accept my guilt. I'm very, very heartily sorry especially for the victims in these cases. It is something that I'm getting therapy for. I wish the therapy to continue, and I wish to come out of this as a better person and rehabilitated and just overall a better human as a result of this, and I'm very sorry for any harm that came to any of the victims in these pictures that were depicted, and that's all, your honor.