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August 31, 2011

Department of Justice

United States Attorney William C. Killian Eastern District of Tennessee


NEWPORT RESIDENT KENNY DALE WILLIS SENTENCED TO ELEVEN YEARS IN PRISON FOR DISTRIBUTING CHILD PORNOGRAPHY

GREENEVILLE, Tenn.-- Kenny Dale Willis, 37, of Newport, Tenn., was sentenced today in U.S. District Court, Greeneville, Tenn., to serve 135 months in prison. The sentence was the result of a guilty plea by Willis on January 11, 2011, to a federal grand jury indictment charging him with distributing child pornography. Upon release from prison, Willis was ordered to remain on supervised release for the remainder of his life and pay a $100 special mandatory assessment.

The indictment and subsequent conviction of Willis was the result of an investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Investigation and the Knoxville Police Department Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorney Helen Smith represented the United States.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police provided information about Willis which it obtained from a convicted sex offender who had communicated with him about sex with children. The investigation revealed that Willis sent images of child rape to another computer user who was under the age of 18, via the internet. A forensic search of Willis’s computer revealed he had more than 1000 images of child pornography on his computer, which he had recently reformatted. Evidence at the sentencing hearing demonstrated that he communicated with other online child pornography consumers via internet service provided by the Bojangles Restaurant in Newport and the Clarion Inn in Gatlinburg, where he worked as a desk clerk.

In sentencing Willis, U.S. District Judge J. Ronnie Greer cited the seriousness of the offense, the need to promote respect for the law, the need to protect the public, Willis’s personal history and characteristics, and the nature and circumstances of the offense. Judge Greer added, “Child pornography crimes are heinous offenses which result in very real harm to children and which are based on supply and demand.”

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood (PSC), a Department initiative launched in 2006 that aims to combat the proliferation of technology-facilitated sexual exploitation crimes against children. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, PSC marshals federal, state, tribal 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 visit ProjectSafeChildhood.gov.

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