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Child Exploitation

North Dakota man sentenced to more than 21 years for child sexual exploitation

BISMARCK, N.D. - A North Dakota man was sentenced to more than 21 years in federal prison Friday for sexually exploiting children. The sentence is the result of a joint investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local and state law enforcement agencies.

Gordon L. Sonnenberg, 65, of Mandan, N.D., was sentenced in U.S. District Court before Chief Judge Daniel L. Hovland to 21 years and 10 months in prison for receiving material involving the sexual exploitation of minors.

On May 25, 2006, detectives from the Mandan Police Department interviewed Sonnenberg after officers received allegations that he had sexual contact with children and had shown child pornography to children. Sonnenberg consented to a search of his computers, which were seized and examined by the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Forensic analysts discovered hundreds of child pornographic images that Sonnenberg had downloaded from the Internet.

Following the computer forensic analysis, ICE arrested Sonnenberg in October 2006. He was originally indicted by a federal grand jury on two counts of sexually exploiting a minor, plus one count each of receiving and possessing child pornography. Sonnenberg pleaded guilty to receiving child pornography in October 2007.

"This is a significant sentence, and fitting punishment for this man's actions," said Michael Mach, resident agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Grand Forks, N.D. "ICE will continue to aggressively investigate those who victimize children, and will work in partnership with the U.S. Attorney's Office to protect our communities from sexual predators."

"The graphic images that Sonnenberg stored on his computer are horribly vile," said U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley. "These children - including one 4-year-old who's being raped - were humiliated, viciously sexualized, and grievously harmed. Sonnenberg is 65 years old, and it remains to be seen whether he outlives his lengthy sentence. He has sexually victimized kids dating back to 1968, and he has earned every day he will sit in a federal prison cell; actually, every day and more."

Sonnenberg was previously convicted of lascivious acts with a child in 1968 in Ames, Iowa, and was sentenced to three years in prison.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and the Mandan Police Department.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Clare Hochhalter prosecuted the case.