News and Press Releases

United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner
Eastern District of California

Sacramento Businessman Sentenced to More than 24 Years in Prison for Child Pornography and Sex Tourism

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
 

Docket #: 2:07-cr-425-KJM

 

 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Chief United States District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. sentenced James E. Johnston, 71, of Sacramento, today to 24 years and five months in prison, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

On May 1, 2012, a federal jury convicted Johnston of conspiring to produce child pornography, two counts of receiving child pornography, possession of child pornography, and traveling in foreign commerce with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. Johnston has been in custody since his conviction.

U.S. Attorney Wagner stated: “This defendant went to great lengths to prey on vulnerable children overseas. Those who would travel abroad for the purpose of sexually exploiting children should know that we will be no less determined in bringing them to justice than we are those who abuse children in this country.”

“This sentence should serve as a sobering warning for those who mistakenly believe they can evade justice by sexually exploiting children outside this country,” said Daniel Lane, assistant special agent in charge of HSI Sacramento. “There can be no place for the abuse of foreign children by our citizens. Homeland Security Investigations will seek to vindicate the rights of those victims no matter how destitute they are or how far they live from our shores.”

This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). Assistant United States Attorneys Kyle Reardon and Todd Leras prosecuted the case. Computer forensic assistance was also provided by the California Department of Justice.

At sentencing, Judge England stated that the nature and circumstances of Johnston’s crime, and the need to deter others warranted the lengthy sentence. Addressing his travel abroad, Judge England stated that Johnston went to “extensive efforts … to go to countries where [sex trafficking of minors] takes place,” and that he went multiple times. “Going once is bad enough; going 2, 3, 10 times … takes it to a whole new level,” said Judge England. Stressing the need to deter such travel, Judge England said, “The next time someone decides that they are going to engage in [international sex trafficking], I hope the next person thinks about it a little bit more because of the sentence I [gave] today.” Concerning Johnston’s downloading and possession of child pornography, Judge England said that Johnston’s conduct created a market for child pornography, and that that market “creates greater victimization.”

According to testimony presented at trial, in February 2006, Johnston used his credit card to purchase a 20-day subscription to a website offering images and videos of child pornography to its customers. The website informed customers that its content was illegal and instructed them to say that that their credit card had been stolen if they were contacted by law enforcement. This defense was offered by Johnston during trial. During the time of his subscription, Johnston downloaded approximately 300 videos of child pornography, some of which showed scenes of infants and toddlers being sexually molested.

Shortly thereafter, according to evidence presented at trial, Johnston began an online relationship through Yahoo Messenger with a woman from Manila, Philippines. During the course of this relationship, Johnston engaged in extensive discussion about acquiring photographs of underage girls that he would like to have sex with, and his future plans to travel to the Philippines in order to have sex with minors.

On August 12, 2006, Johnston told the woman that he would be arriving in Manila on September 14, 2006, and staying at the Mandarin Oriental. He then went on to instruct her that on September 15, 2006, she should “bring [him] young girls two of them,” and asked her to send pictures of “young ones for [him] to pick from.”

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flight records confirmed that Johnston left San Francisco for Hong Kong on August 30, 2006. Testimony from a defense witness showed that as part of this trip, Johnston had made plans to fly to the Philippines. Those plans changed after Department of Homeland Security agents executed a search warrant at Johnston’s residence on September 6, 2006, looking for evidence of his illegal purchase of child pornography in February.

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