News

Cumberland Man Pleads Guilty to Sexually Exploiting a Minor To Produce Child Pornography

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 15, 2011

Baltimore, Maryland - John E. Widdows, age 72, of Cumberland, Maryland, pleaded guilty late yesterday to sexually exploiting a minor to produce child pornography.

The guilty plea was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge William Winter of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations; Cumberland Police Chief Charles H. Hinnant; and Allegany County State’s Attorney Michael O. Twigg.

According to the plea agreement, law enforcement seized from Widdows’ home three videos of the victim, a prepubescent female, engaging in sexually explicit conduct at Widdows’ direction and at least 100 additional images of child pornography. The first video was made on January 17, 2005, when the victim was nine years old and Widdows was 67 years old. The other two videos were made later that year and also show the molestation of the victim by Widdows.

As part of his plea agreement, upon his release from prison Widdows must register as a sex offender in the place where he resides, where he is an employee, and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).

Widdows faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years in prison, followed by up to lifetime supervised release, for exploiting a minor to produce child pornography. U.S. District Judge Benson Everett Legg, has scheduled sentencing for September 8, 2011 at 2:00 p.m.

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 (CEOS), 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 www.projectsafechildhood.gov. Details about Maryland’s program are available at www.justice.gov/usao/md/Safe-Childhood/index.html.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended the ICE-Homeland Security Investigations, the Cumberland Police Department and the Allegany County State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in the investigation and prosecution. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark W. Crooks and Sandra Wilkinson, who prosecuted the case.

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