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Press Release

Two Stockton Residents Charged with Sexual Exploitation of a Minor

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A federal grand jury returned an indictment today against two Stockton residents, charging them with sexual exploitation of a child, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.

According to court documents, between April and June 2020, Jonathan Michael Thornton, 36, and Katherine Leann Herrera, 30, produced images depicting a victim under the age of 10 engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Thornton then distributed the images on a darknet website. Thornton operates a photography business called Thornton Photography. The indictment also charges Thornton with distribution of child pornography.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mira Chernick is prosecuting the case.

If convicted, Thornton and Herrera each face a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years in prison, a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison, and a $250,000 fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute those who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit Click on the “resources” tab for information.

Updated June 18, 2020

Project Safe Childhood