SEATTLE - A 23-year-old Seattle area man has been sentenced to 15 years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release on child pornography charges stemming from an investigation by the Washington State Patrol (WSP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Joshua Robert Starnes, 23, of Olympia, Wash., was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Tacoma for transportation of child pornography. Starnes was arrested by the WSP on December 31, 2009, after a story he wrote about raping young boys was posted on an Internet site. Starnes had come to the attention of law enforcement a few months earlier after chatting with a source about his desire to molest young boys.
When authorities searched Starnes' computer they found more than 34,000 images and 291 video files of child pornography. At sentencing U.S. District Judge Ronald B. Leighton told him, "Your need for the approval of others was greater than your revulsion at these images … a person able to control themselves would have said 'no.'"
According to records filed in the case, Starnes posted on an Internet site about how he had inappropriately touched a pre-school age boy. Starnes also 'chatted' on line about his interest in molesting, raping and otherwise assaulting young boys. Starnes traded child pornography with others via Internet messenger services.
Originally charged in state court, Starnes was indicted by the federal grand jury on April 27, 2010. He pleaded guilty on October 5, 2010. He has been held at the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac, Wash., since May 3, 2010.
"We are extremely pleased with the message this sentence sends to others who would prey on children," said John R. Batiste, chief of the Washington State Patrol. "Our Missing and Exploited Children Task Force put a lot of effort into this case. We appreciate the work of the US Attorney's office in getting to this conclusion."
In asking for the 15-year sentence, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Werner, who prosecuted the case, wrote to the court how the consumers of child pornography cause more children to be victimized. "The distribution and possession of child pornography keeps the market for this type of material thriving, and leads to circumstances where more of this material is created. When he was arrested, Mr. Starnes told the State Patrol that producers of child pornography will "continue to make it regardless if I look at it or not. … Mr. Starnes is incorrect if he believes that consumers of child pornography play no role in the creation of child pornography, some child pornography is "made-for-trade" for other child pornography."
The investigation was conducted under the auspices of ICE's Operation Predator and the Department of Justice's Project Safe Childhood, national initiatives targeting those who sexually exploit children. The public is encouraged to report suspected child predators and suspicious activity by contacting ICE's 24-hour toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE; and NCMEC, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.
For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.