A Statesboro man was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for soliciting child pornography images over the Internet, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Georgia announced Friday.
Stuart Powell Johnson, 52, was sentenced earlier this week by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Lisa Godbey Wood. Following the 15-year prison sentence, he is to serve 20 years of supervised release. He will be required to register as a sex offender.
He pleaded guilty June 16, 2014.
"Using the Internet in an effort to access images depicting child sexual abuse promotes the further victimization of our children and cannot be tolerated," U.S. Attorney Edward Tarver said in a news release issued Friday. "The U. S. Attorney's Office aggressively prosecutes individuals, like this defendant, who exploit our children. This defendant committed a serious crime for which a lengthy punishment is justified."
Evidence presented during the guilty plea and sentencing hearings revealed that Johnson, who had previously been convicted of a child-pornography-related offense when in the military, used an email account and an international website to solicit images depicting child sexual abuse for his own sexual gratification. At the time, Johnson was a registered sex offender and used other individuals' computers and wireless connections in an effort to avoid detection. Significantly, the forensic review of a number of the images located in Johnson's email account led to the identification of a girl in San Antonio who was being sexually exploited there.
"This is an entirely appropriate sentence for a defendant who trafficked in the sexual exploitation of children," Brock D. Nicholson, special agent in charge of Immigration Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations in Atlanta, said in the news release. "Most importantly, we were able to identify and save a previously unknown victim who was suffering from abuse in Texas through the outstanding work of our computer forensics analyst in Savannah. In the fight against child pornography, these innocent victims will always come first for HSI."
This prosecution was the result of a cooperative investigation conducted by Homeland Security Investigations in St. Louis, Savannah, and HSI's Cyber Crimes Center. Law enforcement assistance was also provided by the Bulloch County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, which is a U.S. Department of Justice initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorney's offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as identify and rescue victims.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Greenwood, Deputy Criminal Chief and Project Safe Childhood Coordinator, prosecuted the case on behalf of the United States.