News

Cumberland Man Sentenced to over 18 Years in Prison for Sexually Exploiting a Minor to Produce Child Pornography

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 29, 2011

Baltimore, Maryland - U.S. District Judge Benson Everett Legg sentenced John E. Widdows, age 72, of Cumberland, Maryland, today to 18 ½ years in prison, followed by lifetime supervised release, for sexually exploiting a minor to produce child pornography. Judge Legg also ordered that 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).

The sentence 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.

“The court's sentence clearly reflects the seriousness of the crime committed by John Widdows,” said Special Agent in Charge Winter. “Our children have an absolute right to grow up free from the fear of sexual exploitation. Homeland Security Investigations, along with our law enforcement partners, will not tolerate such despicable crimes. While we can't erase the pain and suffering this young woman experienced, law enforcement will continue to relentlessly pursue predators who sexually abuse children, whether that abuse is physical in nature or if it is accomplished by exploiting their images.”

According to Widdows’ 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.

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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