former nixa firefighter pleads guilty to receiving child porn;
will plead guilty to state charges, spend 15 years in federal prison
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Beth Phillips, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a former Nixa, Mo., firefighter pleaded guilty in federal court today to receiving child pornography over the Internet.
Michael Keith Benson, 41, of Nixa, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Richard E. Dorr to an information that charges him with receiving child pornography. Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, Benson also agreed to plead guilty to state charges of child molestation, statutory sodomy and sexual exploitation of a minor child in the Circuit Court of Christian County, Mo. Today’s charge replaces a federal indictment that was returned on Oct. 15, 2009.
By pleading guilty today, Benson admitted that he used a file-sharing program to download a video of child pornography from the Internet on Jan. 22, 2009. Benson possessed more than 600 images of child pornography, including images of children under the age of 12, images of sadistic and masochistic conduct, and images of a minor with whom he had contact.
Benson also agreed to forfeit to the government a computer, two digital cameras and a computer hard drive, all of which were used to commit the offense.
Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, the government and Benson agree to a sentence of 15 years in federal prison without parole. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the United States Probation Office. In the state case to which Benson must plead guilty within 14 days, he must seek a total sentence of at least 15 years; he may not seek probation or any less lesser alternative sentence.
This case is being prosecuted by Supervisory Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael S. Oliver. It was investigated by the Nixa, Mo., Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Project Safe Childhood
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.