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October 22, 2020Galveston, TXUnited StatesChild Exploitation

Houston-area man sentenced to 85 years for child pornography-related convictions following ICE investigation

GALVESTON, Texas – A 40-year-old Houston-area man was sentenced to federal prison Wednesday for production, distribution, receipt and possession of child pornography and attempted destruction of evidence.

This investigation was conducted by the following agencies: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Galveston, Texas; the Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force; Jones Creek (Texas) Marshals Office; and police departments of the following Texas cities: Pearland, Galveston, Santa Fe, Webster and La Marque.

Keith Prescott Gace, a resident of Sante Fe, Texas, was sentenced Oct. 21 in the Southern District of Texas to 30, 20, 20 and 10 years for the production, distribution, receipt and possession convictions respectively. He was also sentenced to 5 years for the attempted destruction of evidence. Each sentence is the statutory maximum for the crime of conviction. The sentences will all run consecutively for a total 85 years in prison. Gace will serve the rest of his life on supervised release following completion of his prison term, during which time he will have to comply with numerous requirements designed to restrict his access to children and the internet. He will also be ordered to register as a sex offender.

Gace had pleaded guilty to all, but the production charges. He proceeded to trial on that allegation in November 2019. A jury sitting in Galveston returned a guilty verdict on that charge after a two-day trial and approximately one hour of deliberation.

At the hearing, the court heard trial testimony and was given additional information including child victim interviews detailing Gace’s sexual abuse. In handing down the sentence, the court noted how Gace victimized one of the victims and that the sentence reflected the seriousness of the offense, provided just punishment, protects the public and hopefully sends a message of deterrence to such criminal conduct.

"This individual preyed on the innocence of our most vulnerable population," said Mark Dawson, special agent in charge of HSI Houston. "With today's sentencing we have removed this predator from the community and sent a resounding message that we are committed to working with our law enforcement partners to aggressively investigate and prosecute anyone who seeks to exploit our nation's children."

During the trial, the jury heard testimony from multiple law enforcement officers, Gace’s ex-wife and her husband.

In October 2016, law enforcement learned that images and videos of child pornography had been posted to a file sharing network. Through investigation, the email and IP address of the account was associated with Gace.

When law enforcement arrived to search his home, Gace attempted to immerse his cell phone under water to prevent access to its contents. His attempt to destroy the contents failed and authorities were able to conduct a forensic analysis, which revealed hundreds of images and videos of child pornography. It also revealed that Gace used a messaging site to chat with others to receive and distribute images and videos of child pornography and that he had another file sharing account.

Gace’s second account revealed hundreds more images and videos of child pornography, including images that Gace produced of a minor girl under the age of 10. Gace first captured images of the victim fully clothed, but progressed to producing photographs of her sleeping nude, seated naked on the floor with a vibrator next to her leg and an adult hand on her shoulder, and finally to posing while nude in Gace’s bathtub. Along with the bathtub photographs, there were also images of Gace naked, standing and seated in his bathtub on the same day.

At trial, the jury also heard Gace had sent a link to a child pornographic image to the cell phone that the minor girl and two other children had used.

Gace attempted to convey that the images taken of the minor girl were not lewd and lascivious and, therefore, not child pornography. The jury was not convinced and convicted him for sexual exploitation of a child, otherwise known as production of child pornography.

Gace will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zahra Jivani Fenelon and Stephanie Bauman prosecuted the case.

Updated: 10/29/2020