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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Tennessee

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Receiving and Distributing Child Pornography Nets Michael Lee Cole 168 Months in Federal Prison

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - On Wednesday, July 19, 2017, Michael Lee Cole, 39, of Maryville, Tennessee, was sentenced by The Honorable Thomas A. Varlan, Chief U.S. District Judge, to serve 168 months in prison, for receiving and distributing child pornography. Upon his release from prison, he will be supervised by U.S. Probation for 25 years.


In November 2017, Cole pleaded guilty to these charges, which were included in a federal indictment. In his plea agreement on file with U.S. District Court, he admitted to using the Internet and cloud based storage to trade child pornography with other collectors. As a result of their investigation, law enforcement agents seized a cell phone and laptop computer belonging to Cole that contained thousands of images and videos of child pornography, including the sexual exploitation and abuse of children younger than 12 years old.


“This case is a good example of how information sharing among local and federal agencies across geographic regions can bring dangerous criminals to justice. Every child deserves to grow up without the fear, humiliation, and trauma of being the victim of sexual exploitation. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to aggressively pursue the predators in this world who seek to abuse the most innocent among us,” said Nancy Stallard Harr, U.S. Attorney.


The case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the Knoxville Police Department, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorney Bart Slabbekorn represented the United States.


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 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



Project Safe Childhood
Sharry Dedman-Beard Public Information Officer 865-225-1671
Updated July 20, 2017