FARGO, N.D. - A local man was sentenced Thursday to 210 months in federal prison for possessing and distributing child pornography. The sentence resulted from an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Jonathan Stahl, 26, of Wahpeton, N.D., was sentenced Sept. 23 by U.S. District Court Judge Ralph R. Erickson, District of North Dakota, on one count each of possessing and distributing material involving the sexual exploitation of minors. Judge Erickson sentenced Stahl to 17 years and five months in prison, to be followed by a lifetime of supervised release. Stahl was also ordered to pay a $200 special assessment to the Crime Victim's Fund.
Stahl pleaded guilty on April 19 to possessing and distributing child pornographic files depicting young boys engaged in sexually explicit conduct to the social networking site Ning.com. Through investigation, ICE HSI learned that the Ning.com account and IP address were assigned to Stahl.
During the execution of a federal search warrant at Stahl's residence, ICE HSI agents seized Stahl's computer. A subsequent forensic examination of the computer revealed 4,441 images and 278 videos depicting children engaged in sexually explicit conduct. In an interview with law enforcement Stahl admitted to viewing child pornography for six years. The defendant indicated that his preference was young boys and admitted to having previously offended against young boys. The charged offenses occurred in 2008 and 2009 in the District of North Dakota.
"The child pornographic material possessed and distributed by this defendant is profoundly disturbing," said Assistant U. S. Attorney Jennifer Klemetsrud Puhl. "It depicts the graphic sexual abuse of boys as young as one year old. The Court's sentence of 210 months' incarceration recognizes this extreme depravity depicted in these images and videos and the unique harm this crime inflicts upon children."
This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE 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. Since Operation Predator was launched in July 2003, ICE agents have arrested more than 12,800 individuals.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.