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Child Exploitation

Montana resident sentenced to 85 years in prison for making and possessing child pornography

GREAT FALLS, Mont. - A local resident here was sentenced to 85 years in prison Monday for creating and possessing child pornography. This sentence was announced by U.S. Attorney Bill Mercer, District of Montana; the case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Kenneth Edward Threadgill, a 53-year-old resident of Great Falls, appeared for sentencing before U.S. District Judge Sam E. Haddon. Threadgill was sentenced to the following: 1,020 months (85 years) in prison; an $800 special assessment; forfeiture of his computer equipment and cameras; and a lifetime of supervision following his release from prison.

Threadgill was sentenced in connection with his guilty plea to sexual exploitation of children and receipt and possession of child pornography.

In an Offer of Proof, the U.S. government stated it would have proved at trial the following:

The Wyoming Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) initiated an operation targeting peer-to-peer file sharing networks offering child pornography. In November 2006, a computer using Threadgill's IP address had images of child pornography available to other peer-to-peer users.

ICE agents followed up on this information and Threadgill consented to a search of his personal computers. A scan of these computers showed child pornography images, and a search warrant was executed at Threadgill's residence in Great Falls. Pursuant to the search warrant, additional computer equipment and storage devices were recovered, along with digital camera equipment, a video camera and videotapes.

The videotapes were of a young girl victim (now 15 years old) on camping trips with Threadgill. The video shows the girl nude and engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Threadgill's vehicle is shown in the video. Testimony would have established that Threadgill produced these videos and that he had custody and control of the minor victim at the time the videos were made. Digital images found on Threadgill's computers show Threadgill with the same victim while both are nude. The pictures were apparently taken of their reflection in a mirror.

A forensic analysis of Threadgill's computer equipment revealed more than 600 images of child pornography. The images include children clearly less than 12 years old engaged in sexually explicit conduct including images of penetration. Threadgill used his computers to gain access to the Internet and download these images.

Images discovered also showed a prepubescent victim (now 2 years old) who Threadgill had photographed while he was babysitting her for a friend. The child is shown on a quilt that has been identified as being on Threadgill's bed and which was taken as evidence during the search. The child is nude in the image.

Images discovered also show another prepubescent victim (now 4 years old) in images where she is photographed in the nude along with the older videotaped victim. Testimony would establish that these children were all in Threadgill's custody and control at the time the images were produced.

Threadgill used the Internet to receive images of child pornography. And his computers, the digital cameras used for still images, and the video camera used to produce the videotapes were all manufactured outside Montana.

In response to Monday's sentencing, U.S. Attorney Mercer stated that, "The crimes committed by the defendant in this case were reprehensible. The investigation and prosecution in this case were all made possible by the cooperative efforts of the Wyoming ICAC, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the U.S. Attorney's Office. The results in this case underscore how dedicated federal, state, and local law enforcement work to ensure that anyone who sexually exploits children are caught, prosecuted and punished."

"Child pornography is the permanent record of a child being sexually exploited," said Jeffrey Copp, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Denver. "These children are continually victimized every time those images are transmitted, downloaded, shared or viewed. ICE will continue to work closely with the U.S. Attorney's Office to protect young people in the community from those who attempt to sexually exploit them." Copp oversees a four-state area that includes: Montana, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

Because there is no parole in the federal system, the "truth in sentencing" guidelines mandate that Threadgill will likely serve all the time imposed by the court. In the federal system, he will have the opportunity to earn a sentence reduction for "good behavior." However, this reduction cannot exceed 15 percent of the overall sentence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael S. Lahr, District of Montana, prosecuted the case.

The investigation was a cooperative effort between the Wyoming ICAC and ICE.

This case was investigated under ICE's Operation Predator and prosecuted as part of Project Safe Childhood. In February 2006, the Department of Justice launched Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. Attorneys' Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov/.

Operation Predator 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 more than 10,000 individuals, including 19 in Montana.

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.