PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A Pemberton, N.J., man was sentenced today by U.S. District Court Judge William E. Smith to life plus 10 years in federal prison. The man was convicted in May 2012 on charges of interstate travel to engage in illicit sexual acts with a minor, aggravated sexual assault, enticement of a minor and distribution of child pornography. The man was previously convicted on three occasions in the state of New Jersey for crimes against children, including child pornography and aggravated sexual assault of a child under the age of 13. The sentence is the result of an extensive investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Donald J. Jones III, 48, was arrested by HSI special agents and the Rhode Island State Police April 8, 2011, after he traveled by bus from Philadelphia to Providence, expecting to meet with an 8-year-old girl and her father.
Jones communicated for nearly three weeks via the Internet and by phone with a person he believed was the girl's father, when in fact he was communicating with federal agents assigned to the Rhode Island State Police Computer Crimes Unit/Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force.
"As prosecutors, we have no higher calling than to aid parents in protecting their children," said U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha, District of Rhode Island. "Accordingly, I am very pleased with the life sentenced handed down today, which ensures that a remorseless, recidivist pedophile has been brought to justice. Spending the rest of his life in prison ensures that he will never, ever harm another child."
"In addition to preventing this particular pedophile from further targeting any more children, a life sentence sends a clear message to others that may choose to follow in the same path he did," said Colonel Steven G. O'Donnell, superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police. "I commend the prosecutors, troopers, local police and federal agents for their continued vigilance in tracking, arresting and prosecuting those who prey on our children."
"A life sentence demonstrates the serious consequence that awaits those who sexually exploit innocent children," said Kevin M. Niland, U.S. Postal Service inspector in charge. "The Postal Inspection Service will to continue to aggressively identify, target and arrest those who dare prey on our children."
According to the government's evidence presented at trial March 21, 2011, Jones posted a message on an adult Internet forum seeking a parent willing to allow him to have sex with their pre-pubescent child. The message was discovered by a postal inspector assigned to the Rhode Island ICAC who responded, posing as the father of an 8-year-old Rhode Island girl.
Jones and the agent exchanged numerous emails which evolved from the parent purporting to have an interest in allowing Jones to have sex with his daughter, to Jones at first describing and then emailing videos of child pornography in an effort to depict his intentions. They also had numerous telephone conversations, including conversations during which a female Providence Police officer posed as the young girl.
The government presented evidence to the jury that Jones purchased clothing for the young girl and mailed them to the person he believed to be her father. Jones also purchased and brought with him a nightgown and underwear for the young girl to wear.
On April 8, 2011, federal agents watched as Jones boarded a bus in Philadelphia and traveled to New York and then on to Rhode Island. Jones was arrested by federal and state law enforcement agents as he stepped off the bus in downtown Providence.
According to the State of New Jersey sex offender registry, Donald J. Jones III is a level two child sex offender, convicted in 1993 on charges of aggravated sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child. Both offenses were against a female under the age of 13. Jones was sentenced today to a consecutive 10 year federal prison sentence for committing a new sex offender crime while being required to register as a sex offender.
Providence Police, special agents from HSI New Jersey and the U.S. Marshals Service assisted in the investigation.
The Rhode Island ICAC is a Department of Justice grant-funded program administered by the state police, and is comprised of six state police detectives, detectives from the Providence, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick, Johnston and Pawtucket police departments, and federal officers from HSI and the United States Postal Inspectors' Office. The objective of the ICAC is to form strong working relationships among federal, state and local law enforcement in order to effectively and efficiently prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute online child exploitation and child pornography crimes.
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.