A former leading gay rights activist in Atlanta was sentenced Tuesday to serve 185 months in federal prison for selling meth and dealing in child pornography.
Gary Edward Salles, 57, appeared before Federal Judge Sandy Mattice in Chattanooga.
Judge Mattice said Salles "had the courage of his convictions" to be a gay leader at the time when many gays "were still in the closet." But he said, "The utter irony, if not the tragedy, of your actions is that they fly in the face" of what he had achieved in the past and lend credence to "those who believe that homosexuals are nothing more than child predators and pedophiles."
Prosecutor Mel Schwing had argued for up to 365 months in prison, saying Salles had offered to bring a child to Winchester, Tn., for a "slamming party" with a group of men using meth.
The former IBM official, in a long, emotional speech to Judge Mattice, said he did not know any children and was only boasting when talking to what turned out to be a detective for the Winchester Police Department.
Salles told the judge his problems started when he was terminated by a new IBM manager, allegedly because of his involvement as a gay activist.
He said he was introduced to meth and it led him to his arrest. He said while selling meth, he was shown a video of child pornography by a customer.
Salles said he wanted to urge members of the gay and lesbian community to avoid meth. He stated, "I would say to them, 'We've got to eliminate meth in our community. It's a destroyer.'"
He said, "While I was doing meth I was getting more depraved."
Salles said he was with IBM in Memphis, then got a promotion to the Atlanta office. He said he was on a number of business "diversity"
committees. But he said his fortunes at the company changed when a new female manager from Jamaica arrived. He said he did not know at the time that "Jamaica is one of the few countries that actively tries to wipe out gays."
He said the new manager told him to take down items at his cubicle, including Gay Pride posters. He said he appealed to the human resources department and was told he did not have to take them down.
But he said "all of a sudden my work wasn't good enough," and he was terminated.
He said afterward his car was repossessed and his roommate of seven years moved out because he was not bringing in income.
Salles said he was introduced to meth at the lavish home of someone in the entertainment business. He said their main source of income was dealing in meth. He said he was offered an eight ball of meth. He said he sold it, then went back for more to sell.
He said he later was introduced to Ben Elliott, who ultimately set him up with the police in Winchester for the sting there.
Salles said he has been counseling others while in jail, including bringing his cellmate to a religious conversion. He said he has been brought back to his Catholic faith. He said he wanted to thank the officers who arrested him, saying they "saved my life."
Salles and another man were arrested in Winchester after they traveled from Smyrna, Ga., to a motel room for an alleged deal involving meth and child pornography.
Authorities said the pair delivered an ounce of meth, and Salles handed over a DVD compact disc containing numerous child pornograpy videos and still images. He said Salles displayed the disc on a laptop computer and described the child pornography to the undercover officers, including Franklin Sgt. Eric Anderson of the Internet Crimes Against Children task force.
The operation was videotaped by officers through a closed circuit TV in an adjoining room.
Salles estimated that during the past year, he had sold a combined total of 10 ounces of meth at an aggregate price of $30,000 for a profit of $15,000.
He told arresting officers he had operated an Internet website for the past year geared toward pedophiles and had received 50-60 child pornographic images via e-mail and had sent at least 250 child pornographic images to six different individuals via e-mail.
Salles said he owned numerous child pornographic images on three stationary drives in his desktop computer and four USB drives on the desk of his bedroom at his condo at 27 Lakes Edge Dr. in Smyrna.