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Child Exploitation

Mississippi man pleads guilty to 8 counts of sexual exploitation of children involving the Internet

JACKSON, Miss. - Robert Morris, 45, of Crystal Springs, Miss., pleaded guilty June 2 in federal court to four counts of producing, one count of distributing, one count of receiving and two counts of possessing child pornography, following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigation.

All eight counts involved visual images of minor children engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

On Jan. 15, 2009, ICE agents executed a federal search warrant for child pornography at Morris' residence. A forensic preview of Morris' computer conducted by an ICE computer forensic specialist found numerous images of child pornography.

During the execution of the search warrant, Morris admitted that he had child pornography on his computers, that he had chatted with others online about having sex with children and that he had knowingly received and traded pornographic images of children.

A subsequent forensic review of Morris' computer by an ICE computer forensic specialist and the High Tech Investigative Unit of the Department of Justice's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section revealed that Morris had molested and photographed young teenage girls at his home on numerous occasions.

"All children have an absolute right to grow up free from the fear of sexual exploitation," said Raymond R. Parmer Jr., special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in New Orleans. "ICE relentlessly pursues predators who sexually abuse children, whether that abuse is physical in nature or if it's accomplished by exploiting their images. ICE will not tolerate such despicable crimes. Our agents will continue to police cyberspace and target those who travel abroad to exploit one of the most vulnerable segments of our society – our children." 

This case was part of Operation Predator, which is 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 almost 12,800 individuals.

Additionally, this case was investigated under Project Safe Childhood, a Department of Justice (DOJ) nationwide initiative launched in May 2006, to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Through Project Safe Childhood, federal, state and local law enforcement officials have formed partnerships to apprehend and prosecute individuals, who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.

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.

Along with ICE agents, the case was also investigated by the Crystal Spring Police Department.

Robert Morris will be sentenced on Aug. 18 at 9 a.m. and faces a maximum penalty of 240 years in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Glenda R. Haynes and DOJ Trial Attorney Andrew McCormack with the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Department of Justice prosecuted the case.