By Anand Vasu
Cornell D.A. Johnson, of Chicago, was sentenced to 45 years in prison on April 13 for producing child pornography involving multiple minors.
Senior U.S. District Judge Michael M. Mihm called Johnson the “ringmaster” of the operation and said that he had preyed on victims, exercising his power over children of a vulnerable age.
Johnson entered a guilty plea on Feb. 19 and this detailed his modus operandi. He created and operated several fake Facebook profiles, presenting himself as a female.
He then used these profiles to contact other females on Facebook, and enticed unsuspecting individuals to send him photographs that progressed from various stages of undress to sexually suggestive and/or sexually explicit photographs of themselves.
Once he had those photos, Johnson threatened to injure the minor victims’ reputations and embarrass them by posting their nude pictures online if they failed to comply with his demands for additional images.
Johnson then demanded that minor teenagers sexually abuse younger members of their households and produce images while doing so.
When he was arrested, Johnson was identified in more than 80 Cybertips Facebook reported from across the U.S. and Canada to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Johnson’s victims numbered at least 17 and the youngest victim was just four years old.
Johnson, who has been in the custody of US Marshals since his arrest, was ordered to remain on supervised release for life upon completion of his prison sentence.
The case was prosecuted by U.S. Attorney’s Office Central District of Illinois and investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the Decatur Police Department and the Illinois Attorney General’s Office Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
The U.S. Attorneys’ offices for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, provided assistance, as did the Western District of Pennsylvania, the District of Arizona, the Middle District of Pennsylvania and the Western District of Wisconsin. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elly M. Peirson prosecuted the case on behalf of the government.
The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative by the Department of Justice to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse.
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 set.
According to Thorn, an organization set up by Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore in 2012 to combat child pornography, more than 25 million images on the Internet are reviewed by the National Centre for Missing Children annually.
This translated to nearly 500,000 images being reviewed each week.
The organization acknowledged that child pornography was a global issue, but also said that the United States was one of the largest producers and consumers of such material.
Section 2256 of Title 18, United States Code, defines child pornography as “any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (someone under 18 years of age).”
In 2002, NCMEC started a program collecting child abuse images as part of its Child Victim Identification Program.
Since then, it has been determined that 76% of images depicted penetration while, 44% contained images of bondage or sado-masochism, Thorn reported.
According to the Children’s Advocacy Center, child pornography accounted for nearly 25% of all online searches relating to pornography. The Center estimated that as many as 28,000 individuals were consuming child pornography on the Internet at any given second.