ATLANTA — A Georgia man was arraigned Monday on charges that he produced, distributed and received child pornography following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Michael Cannon II was indicted by a federal grand jury April 9. As part of their investigation, HSI special agents determined the true identities of the two minor victims that Cannon is alleged to have photographed and posted online. The victims have been referred to child services and are receiving appropriate care.
"Photographing molestation and trading the images over the Internet with like-minded individuals in exchange for more child pornography is horrendous," said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. "Child pornography robs children of their innocence. It also places a permanent record of the victimization of these children on the internet. To make matters even worse, in this case the two girls were in the defendant's care. Law enforcement officers have identified and rescued the children, and the defendant will now have to answer for participating in this cycle of victimization."
"While HSI special agents are working around the clock and around the world to drain the cesspool that is child pornography, the identification and rescue of victims suffering at the hands of depraved child predators is of the highest priority," said Brock D. Nicholson, special agent in charge of HSI Atlanta. "Every single law enforcement agency in this country is absolutely dedicated to hunting down these predators and holding them accountable for their despicable actions. I strongly encourage citizens everywhere to do their part to help protect our innocent children by reporting any signs of abuse they witness. It will take the collective efforts of law enforcement and members of our communities to successfully bring these monsters to justice."
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: In mid-December 2012, Cannon, 33, of Gainesville, Ga., allegedly posted several images of a 10-year-old girl on a foreign-based website where people could post and share photographs. At least one of the images was child pornography. Several individuals posted comments on Cannon's photographs and asked about trading photos. According to the information presented in court, Cannon gave them his e-mail address and, when they wrote him, he sent them explicit photographs showing him in the act of molesting two young girls. In return, he received dozens of e-mails containing images and videos of other children being sexually abused. As part of their investigation, special agents determined the true identities of the two minor victims that Cannon is alleged to have photographed and posted online.
The charge of producing child pornography carries a mandatory minimum period of confinement of 15 years and a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. The charge of receiving child pornography carries a mandatory minimum confinement period of 5 years and a maximum term of 20 years in prison. The charge of possessing child pornography carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Each charge carries a fine of up to $250,000 and a period of supervised release from 5 years to life. In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.
Members of the public are reminded that the indictments only contain charges. The defendants are presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government's burden to prove each defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423 or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.
HSI is a founding member and current chair of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.