Samuel Barnette, 42, of Noblesville, Ind., was charged with distributing child pornography in a criminal complaint filed Oct. 18 in the Southern District of Indiana. According to the criminal complaint, on Aug. 14 a witness contacted the Noblesville Police Department that while she was in Barnette's residence she allegedly observed a search history on his computer that included search terms such as "naked kids" and "naked children."
A search warrant was sought and obtained by Noblesville law enforcement. The complaint alleges that in subsequent interviews with the Noblesville Police Department, Barnette admitted receiving via email images of child pornography involving children ranging in age from 2 to 18. He also allegedly stated that he had used online search engines to seek out images of nude children.
The complaint further alleges that upon searching one of Barnette's numerous email accounts, law enforcement identified a number of images and videos depicting the sexual abuse of children, many of which were violent in nature. Media reports from the time of Barnette's initial arrest on state charges indicate that, up until the time of this investigation, he was employed at a local elementary school as a custodial worker.
"This individual reportedly worked around children as an elementary school custodian, all while allegedly seeking and collecting child pornography online," said Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of HSI Chicago. "I urge child predators to take note – Homeland Security Investigations will find you and see that you are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
"The mission of our Project Safe Childhood initiative is to investigate and prosecute anyone found to be engaged in the sexual exploitation of children," said Joseph H. Hogsett, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana. "Working together with our local partners, we're dedicated to prosecuting the perpetrators of these disturbing crimes to the fullest extent of the law."
Assistant U.S. Attorney A. Brant Cook, Southern District of Indiana, is prosecuting the case. If convicted, Barnette faces up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and a lifetime of supervised release.
A criminal complaint is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
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, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).
HSI is a founding member and the U.S. representative of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.