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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Central District of Illinois

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, September 10, 2021

Peoria Man Sentenced to 37 Years in Prison for Attempted Sex Trafficking of a Child As a Registered Sex Offender

PEORIA, Ill. – James Wright, 50, of the 1500 block of South Easton Avenue, in Peoria, Illinois, was sentenced on September 9, 2021, to 37 years (444 months) in prison, to be followed by a lifetime term of supervised release, for attempted sex trafficking of a child as a registered sex offender.

 At Wright’s sentencing hearing, U.S. District Court Judge James E. Shadid found that Wright’s claim that he had merely been attempting to investigate the trafficking of children, rather than attempting to engage in a sex act with a child, lacked credibility in light of the evidence produced at trial. Judge Shadid noted the lengths Wright had gone to in order to engage in a sex act with an individual that he believed to be a 15-year-old girl. Judge Shadid further stated that Wright’s 2012 state conviction for aggravated criminal sexual abuse of a minor female of the same age made his excuse even less believable.

At sentencing, the government produced evidence that Wright had engaged in protracted online discussions and negotiations related to engaging in a sex act with a minor and also had attempted to solicit pornographic images of the minor. The government noted that Wright had arrived at the location where the sex act was supposed to occur at the time agreed upon in those communications and stated that Wright was carrying the exact amount of money that had been agreed upon in a separate pocket from the rest of his money.

Wright was convicted following a bench trial of attempted sex trafficking of a child (Count One) while a registered sex offender (Count Two).

“This very significant sentence imposed by Judge Shadid again demonstrates that those who desire and take steps to sexually harm people they believe to be children will be severally punished,” said Acting United States Attorney Doug Quivey. “The United States Attorney’s Office along with the FBI, ISP, and our other law enforcement partners, expends great effort and resources to try and proactively protect our children. We will continue to do all we can to arrest and prosecute those who want to sexually harm children.”   

"The FBI remains dedicated in the fight to protect our future by ensuring our children can prosper where individuals like Wright do not threaten their welfare," said Federal Bureau of Investigation-Springfield Acting Special Agent in Charge Timothy Ferguson. “With this sentencing, a clear and concise message is delivered to anyone who would prey on our nation’s most vulnerable of victims. The FBI, Illinois State Police and our law enforcement partners will use every available resource to stop child predators in their tracks, and the consequences of this egregious type of criminal behavior will be swift and substantial.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Springfield Field Office, and the Illinois State Police investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Douglas F. McMeyer and Paul B. Morris represented the government in the prosecution.

The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a Department of Justice initiative led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), to marshal federal, state and local resources to 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.

Updated September 10, 2021