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February 3, 2021Denver, COUnited StatesChild Exploitation

Receiving, distributing child pornography sends Montana man to prison

Almost 2,700 image files found on cell phone

MISSOULA, Mont. – A Montana man who admitted downloading and sharing child pornography with his cell phone was sentenced today to eight years and six months in prison and to five years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $12,000 restitution.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) joined Acting U.S. Attorney Leif Johnson in the announcement.

Derek Wallace Johnson, 41, pleaded guilty Sept. 23, 2020 to the distribution of child pornography and receipt of child pornography.

The prosecution said in court documents that in Oct. 2019, HSI in Great Falls received information that a suspect had uploaded possible child pornography in April 2019. An investigation determined that the uploaded image depicted a child engaged in sexually explicit conduct and led to Johnson as the suspect.

Investigators served a search warrant on Johnson's residence. Johnson, who was present for the search, told officers he had lost his cell phone a few days earlier, but an agent found it hidden between the box spring and mattress in Johnson's bedroom.

After initially being untruthful, Johnson admitted he had participated in online activity involving child pornography and admitted to hiding his phone. He also said he had about 1,000 videos and images of child pornography in an encrypted app on his phone. Johnson told officers he downloaded child pornography in Kik chat rooms and shared files with others seeking images in chat rooms.

Agents searched Johnson's phone and determined it contained almost 2,700 image files and more than 500 video files of child pornography. Johnson distributed child pornography in April 2019 and had downloaded or received child pornography from Dec. 2016 to Nov. 2019.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided. Assistant U.S. Attorney Cyndee Peterson prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Montana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, HSI and the Great Falls Police Department.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of DHS and a vital U.S. asset in combatting transnational crime and threats. One of HSI’s top priorities is to protect the public from crimes of victimization, and HSI’s child exploitation investigations program is a central component of this mission. HSI is recognized as a global leader in this investigative discipline, and is committed to utilizing its vast authorities, international footprint and strong government and non-government partnerships to identify and rescue child victims, identify and apprehend offenders, prevent transnational child sexual abuse and help make the internet a safer place for children.

For more information about HSI’s efforts to protect children from online sexual abuse, visit https://www.ice.gov/topics/iGuardians.

This case was initiated under the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood initiative, which was launched in 2006 to combat the proliferation of technology-facilitated crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children. Through a network of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and advocacy organizations, Project Safe Childhood attempts to protect children by investigating and prosecuting offenders involved in child sexual exploitation. It is implemented through partnerships including the Montana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The ICAC Task Force Program was created to assist state and local law enforcement agencies by enhancing their investigative response to technology facilitated crimes against children.

To report a crime, call 866-347-2423 (TTY for hearing impaired: 802-872-6196) or visit the ICE Tip Line.

Updated: 02/05/2021