A former Wheaton College professor who was on probation for a child pornography conviction was re-sentenced to prison Wednesday for downloading a 1950s movie that featured images of naked children.
Donald Ratcliff, 66, who was a religious studies professor at the Christian college at the time of his arrest, was given three years in prison for violating the terms of his probation, which included a ban on viewing sexually stimulating material.
In April, Ratcliff downloaded a 1954 movie called “Garden of Eden,” which includes images of children at a nudist colony. The former professor admitted to his probation officer that he selected the innocuous-sounding title because he thought it might go unnoticed by authorities, who were monitoring his internet usage.
He told DuPage County Judge John Kinsella that he knew it was a serious violation.
“I have no excuse to offer,” he said.
However, Ratcliff likened himself to someone who slips while hiking up a mountain, saying he hoped to avoid prison so he could continue his therapy for sexual addiction and pedophilia.
“Please, your honor, allow me to keep climbing upward by extending my probation,” he told the judge. “With God’s help, I will get a foothold. I will resume climbing.”
The judge noted that Ratcliff had completed almost three years of probation before the violation. But, Kinsella said, the probation violation was serious enough to require a prison sentence.
“This goes right to the heart of the sentence he was given — to not seek sexual gratification from young children. And that’s exactly what he did,” Kinsella said.
Ratcliff’s former probation officer, Laura Skach, testified that Ratcliff had reported having downloaded the movie the following day. But he had attempted to minimize the act, Skach said, and computer records showed that he had tried to colorize the black and white movie for better clarity.
The former Carol Stream resident was arrested in 2012 for child pornography possession after police executed a search warrant at his home. He was convicted in 2014 and sentenced to 180 days in the county jail and sex offender probation.
Wheaton College fired Ratcliff after his arrest. He had taught there for about six years.
With credit for time served on the original conviction and the four months he has been in the county jail this year, Ratcliff will probably serve about one year in prison.
Clifford Ward is a…