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January 24, 2023Lincoln, NE, United StatesChild Exploitation

Nebraska man sentenced to 13 years for possession of child pornography following HSI investigation

LINCOLN, Neb. — Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Kansas City Taekuk Cho and United States Attorney Steven Russell announced that United States District Court Judge John M. Gerrard sentenced Aaron Joseph Kearney, 50, of Lincoln, to 13 years imprisonment for possession of child pornography on Jan. 20. The sentence follows a Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) probe. When he completes his prison sentence, Kearney will serve 10 years on supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system. The judge also ordered Kearney to pay $3,000 in restitution to a victim and $5,000 in special assessments. Kearney pleaded guilty to the offense on Oct. 6.

Agents with the Department of Homeland Security in Phoenix, Arizona, uncovered Kearney’s involvement when they investigated the receipt of child pornography on an instant messaging platform. They obtained information about Kearney’s and other accounts exchanging child pornography material with the subject account in Phoenix. One of the accounts, which they later discovered belonged to Kearney, posted messages on Aug. 26, 2021, requesting child pornography material. Three days later, Kearney’s account posted six videos depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Three of the videos involved prepubescent children.

After tracing that account back to Kearney, agents with HSI in Nebraska obtained a search warrant for Kearney’s residence in Lincoln. Authorities executed the warrant on Jan. 27, 2022, and seized Kearney’s cellphone. Kearney was home at the time, and agents interviewed him. Kearney confessed that the account in question was his and that he had used that account to seek child pornography.

Officials later examined Kearney’s phone, which contained two videos depicting minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Investigators also discovered three applications used to clean and delete files from mobile devices.

One of the factors the district court considered in Kearney’s sentencing was that he was previously convicted on April 7, 2008, in the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska, of possession of child pornography.

The investigation was conducted by HSI and this case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, 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 to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.

Learn more about HSI’s mission to combat child exploitation in our community on Twitter @HSIKansasCity.