Martial Arts Instructor Will Serve 90 Years in Federal Prison for Production of Child Pornography
Christopher M. Horton, 21, of Highland, Illinois was sentenced today in the U.S. District Court to 90 years in prison for six counts of Production of Child Pornography, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, announced. Horton was also ordered to pay $3,250 in restitution to the victims of his offenses and a $600 special assessment. If he is ever released from prison, he will be on federal supervised release for the remainder of his life.
“While there is little comfort for the instant victims, it is assuring to know that such a vicious predator will never again walk free in Southern Illinois.” said United States Attorney Wigginton.
Employed as a martial arts instructor at a studio in Belleville, Illinois, Horton sexually abused three students, ages 6, 6, and 10 years, and video recorded these acts of abuse using his cell phone. Horton also attempted to engage a fourth minor, who was 7 years old, in sexually explicit conduct to produce a recording of that conduct. Approximately 57 video files containing child pornography were recovered from Horton’s cellular phone, which were created by Horton between the dates of May 1, 2012, and February 9, 2013. During an interview with law enforcement, Horton confessed to sexually abusing the minors and to having produced video recordings of the abuse.
In all, evidence showed that Horton preyed upon children whenever given the opportunity, including at the karate studio where he worked, private residences, and at his home. United States Attorney Wigginton noted, “Horton demonstrated brazen arrogance in his commission of the sexual abuse of these children, committing his acts while other adults were in the same building and often just on the other side of a closed door.” Two electronic entries, located in the “Notes” folder of Horton’s iPhone, found during the forensic examination, demonstrated the calculated and premeditated manner in which Horton targeted each of his victims. In the two entries, Horton meticulously scripted what he would say to his young victims to solicit them, groom them and to keep them silent.
In pronouncing the sentence, Chief United States District Judge David R. Herndon commented on the shocking and serious nature of the offenses committed by Horton: “Probably in my 15 years as a federal judge this is the most serious and heinous case that I have seen. . . . The dangerousness and deviousness of the defendant’s acts are off the charts.”
The case was investigated by the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Metro East Cyber Crimes and Analysis Task Force, the Highland, Illinois, Police Department and the Belleville, Illinois, Police Department. Horton is also charged with several counts of Predatory Criminal Sexual Assault and Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse in the Circuit Courts of Madison and St. Clair Counties. Those charges are still pending. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ali Summers.