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Press Release

Former Boy Scout Volunteer Sentenced to 22 Years in Prison for Hiding Cameras in Camp Bathrooms

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

ST. LOUIS – U.S. District Judge Rodney W. Sippel on Thursday sentenced a former Boy Scout volunteer to 22 years in prison for hiding cameras in bathrooms at a St. Francois County, Missouri scout camp.

Judge Sippel also ordered David Lee Nelson to pay $55,000 in special assessments that will go to a fund for victims and prevention programs and $6,810 to pay for counseling for the victims in this case. After he gets out of prison, Nelson will be on supervised release for life, with special conditions that include a prohibition against any contact with minors without permission.

Nelson hid two cameras in bathrooms at the S Bar F Scout Ranch in St. Francois County in July of 2021 while working there as a volunteer. Nelson hid the cameras in paper towel dispensers, positioning them so they would capture a shower stall and other portions of the bathroom. 

One camera was discovered when a scout leader and scouts were cleaning out one of the restroom stalls. A search uncovered another camera, and leaders then called the St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department. When questioned later by a sheriff’s deputy after being spotted near the bathrooms, Nelson lied and said he was looking for a cell phone charger that he’d left in the stall. 

During Thursday’s hearing, victims and their parents said Nelson was supposed to be protecting the scouts and was supposed to be someone children could trust. Nelson’s crimes, they said, have now left them unable to trust others. The victims also said they now experience fear and discomfort every time they try to use a public bathroom. 

Nelson, 41, of Redmond, Washington, pleaded guilty in January to two counts of production of child pornography and two counts of attempted production of child pornography.

The St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Drake is prosecuting the case.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Department of Justice Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state 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 about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.

Contact

Robert Patrick, Public Affairs Officer, robert.patrick@usdoj.gov.

Updated May 2, 2024

Topic
Project Safe Childhood