Mark Salling, the 35-year-old actor known for playing Puck on Glee, was found dead in a Los Angeles riverbed earlier this week. Salling recently negotiated a plea deal for child pornography charges and was scheduled to be sentenced in March. His death has been ruled a suicide.
Salling was arrested in December 2015 after a warrant issued by the LAPD's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Investigators recovered a laptop, a hard drive, and a USB flash drive from Salling's residence that contained over 50,000 images and videos depicting child pornography. His case was referred to federal authorities due to his vast collection.
Charges for receiving child pornography result in a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison and a maximum sentence of 20 years. Possessing child pornography carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
Salling was released on bail following his December arrest. In May 2016, he was indicted on charges of receiving and possessing child pornography. Salling pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography involving a prepubescent minor and was scheduled for sentencing on March 7 of this year. Salling agreed to a plea agreement that included a sentence of seven years in federal prison and a 20-year period of supervised release and registration as a sex offender.
The cause of death was asphyxia by hanging and ruled a suicide. Salling was found in the riverbed of the Los Angeles River in a secluded area of Big Tujunga Canyon, near his home in Sunland.
Part of Salling's plea agreement included a provision to pay $50,000 in restitution to Salling's victims. Because Salling was not sentenced prior to his death, his victims are unable to collect payment. The case against Salling will also be dismissed.
The victims may file a civil suit and seek damages against Salling's estate, and use his guilty plea as an admission of liability; but it may be difficult to enforce a judgment and collect any money. The burden will fall on the victims to show guilt, and it is unknown what debts Salling's estate owes.
Previously, Salling was accused of sexual battery and assault in a 2013 lawsuit, which settled for a reported $2.7 million after charges were dropped. Salling's 2015 arrest was based on a tip from an ex-girlfriend. Some of the numerous images found on Salling's computer included children as young as three years old.
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