LOGAN COUNTY MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO PRODUCING CHILD PORNOGRAPHY
THURSDAY, JANUARY 17, 2013
Public Affairs Officer
COLUMBUS – Mickell Close, 31, of Quincy, Ohio pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of using minors to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of the conduct.
Carter M. Stewart, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, William A. Hayes, Acting Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Ohio and Michigan, Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott who heads the Franklin County Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, and Logan County Sheriff Andrew J. Smith announced the plea entered today before U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr.
According to a statement read by an HSI agent during the hearing, law enforcement officials patrolling the internet in June 2012 identified an email account connected to sharing child pornography. The account was traced to Close.
Further investigation found that Close used his cell phone to secretly record videos of three prepubescent female victims at his residence while the victims were using the bathroom or bathing. Portions of the videos showed close-up depictions focused on the nude genitalia of each of the victims. After recording the videos he made still images from the videos and traded the videos and images with other individuals on the internet in exchange for images and videos of child pornography.
Forensic examination of computers and storage media at Close’s residence revealed at least 34 images of mainly prepubescent females engaged in sexually explicit activity or posed in a sexually explicit manner while in bondage.
“Once images of exploitation are on the internet, they never go away,” U.S. Attorney Stewart said. “This adds to the indignity and humiliation the victim is already facing.”
Logan County Sheriff’s deputies working with HSI arrested Close on November 9. He has been in custody since his arrest.
“Today's conviction is the first step toward healing for the victims of the depraved acts perpetrated by the defendant in this case,” said William Hayes, acting special agent in charge of HSI Detroit, which covers Michigan and Ohio. “While we cannot restore the innocence stolen from the young victims in cases like these, we will continue to make the aggressive pursuit of their predators among our highest priorities.”
“Individuals who represent the worst of the worst are the reasons why we do what we do,” Franklin County Sheriff Scott said. “Close’s conviction can prevent other children from horrific and unimaginable abuse. It's because of the cooperative effort between all of the agencies that make up the Franklin County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and HSI, that predators like Close are identified and brought to justice.”
In the plea agreement, the parties have agreed that a term of incarceration between 252 months and 318 months followed by 20 years under court supervision is the appropriate sentencing range. The court will conduct a pre-sentence investigation before deciding whether or not to accept the terms of the plea agreement.
Close also agreed to forfeit all computer equipment and visual depictions of the child pornography that were seized from him at the time of the execution of the search warrant in this case. The plea agreement also allows the U.S. Probation Office to install monitoring software on any computer he owns, uses or has access to during his period of supervised release. He will also be required to register as a sex offender anywhere he lives, works or goes to school.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. 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 as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.