LITTLE ROCK—A registered sex offender from Michigan has been convicted of committing multiple sex offenses in Arkansas at the conclusion of a three-day trial. On Wednesday, a federal jury found Jeremy Robert Ward, 33, of Marine City, Mich., guilty on all nine counts for which he was indicted: one count of interstate travel with the purpose of enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity with a minor, six counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, one count of receipt of child pornography, and one count of travel with the purpose to engage in illicit sexual activity with a minor.
The jury returned their verdict after deliberating for approximately 90 minutes. United States District Judge Kristine G. Baker presided over the trial and will sentence Ward at a later date. One of Ward’s charges carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison.
“This defendant, who is already a convicted sex offender, continued this abhorrent behavior by acting on his desire to have sex with a minor. He used social media to seek out the victim and took advantage of her innocence,” said Jonathan D. Ross, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. “This verdict the jury reached sends a clear message that Arkansas juries will not hesitate to convict sex offenders for this type of conduct. If you seek to have sex with children, you will be caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent under federal law.”
Ward was previously convicted in 2013 in Michigan of three counts possession of child sexually abusive material and one count of accosting a child for an immoral purpose. He is a registered sex offender in Michigan.
Ward met the 12-year-old minor victim online in September 2022 when he added her to his Snapchat account. He exchanged messages with the victim for approximately three weeks before traveling to Arkansas from his home in Michigan to meet her. On October 15, 2022, he met her face-to-face when he drove up to her in his pickup truck while she was riding her bike near her neighborhood in Bryant. During her encounter with Ward, the victim began surreptitiously recording a portion of her exchange with him. On the video, Ward told her, “I was hoping to take you home” and “I just wish she [her mom] would let you go, especially since I drove all the way down here.” Ward also told the minor victim that she must “think I’m gonna kidnap you or something,” to which she replied, “You probably are about to at this point.” He later asked if she knew of any “private spots,” in an attempt to find a more secluded place to be with her.
Around the same time, using an application on her cell phone, her father noticed she was outside of the established boundary where she was permitted to be. Her parents went to her location, and her father found the minor victim laying in the grass with Ward, whose pants were around his ankles. Ward then fled into the woods.
The minor victim testified at trial that while she was in the field with Ward, he attempted to commit sexual acts with her. Subsequent investigation revealed that the victim and Ward communicated through video messages, some of which Ward recorded on his phone. The recorded video messages were recovered from Ward’s phone and included video and still images of the nude minor victim in the shower.
“Each year thousands of children are targeted and victimized by child predators. Mr. Ward’s heinous crimes highlight the prevalent threat Arkansas youth and families face,” said Special Agent in Charge Alicia D. Corder of FBI’s Little Rock Field Office. “This case is yet another example of FBI Little Rock’s commitment to working with our partners to target individuals who seek to exploit the most vulnerable members of our community.”
The statutory penalty for sexual exploitation of a minor ranges from not less than 25 years to not more than 50 years. The statutory penalty for traveling with the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with a minor is not less than 10 years imprisonment and up to life imprisonment. The statutory penalty for receipt of child pornography is not less than 15 years and not more than 40 years imprisonment. The statutory penalty for of travel with the purpose to engage in illicit sexual activity with a minor is not more than 30 years imprisonment. All offenses of conviction include a potential penalty of not more than a $250,000 fine and not less than five years to life of supervised release.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI, and the case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Kristin Bryant and Amanda Fields.
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