Michelle Lee Freeman, 40, and her husband, Michael Serapis Freeman, 39, entered a plea of not guilty Thursday to the charges of production and distribution of child pornography. According to the complaint, the Freemans produced sexually explicit images and videos involving their two young daughters who are both under the age of 10. Some of the images depicted Michael Freeman sexually abusing one of his daughters. Michelle Freeman is also alleged to have produced images of child pornography and allowed her husband to use their children to produce child pornography.
"For the past two years, all we knew was that there were these voiceless victims, two little girls, somewhere in the U.S. being sexually abused," said Brad Bench, special agent in charge of HSI Seattle who oversees HSI Portland. "Now with this federal indictment, the victims will have a voice as the full force of the U.S. government confronts their accused abusers in court."
In August, ICE issued a national appeal for public assistance to locate an unknown child pornography suspect. HSI's Child Exploitation Investigations Unit's Victim Identification Program obtained a "Jane Doe" arrest warrant in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for the suspect. Two weeks later, tips from the Pacific Northwest led HSI to call on local and regional news media to publicize the search. The news coverage and additional sharing on Facebook and other social media outlets eventually led to the Freemans' surrender on Sep. 4.
"The crimes alleged in this indictment chronicle a tragic breach of trust," said U.S. Attorney S. Amanda Marshall. "While all of us are saddened when we learn of such atrocities, we must remain ever vigilant in our determination to end child abuse and exploitation, and punish those responsible for such crimes."
For each of the four counts of producing child pornography, the Freemans face between 15 and 30 years in prison, and on the distribution count they face between five and 20 years imprisonment. Trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 27 before U.S. District Court Judge Garr M. King. Both defendants have been detained as dangers to the community and as flight risks.
HSI received investigative assistance with the case from the Salem Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Oregon's Gang and Child Sex Trafficking Unit.
An indictment is only an accusation of a crime, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court.
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-DHS-2ICE 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, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.