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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, April 22, 2022

Richmond Man Pleads Guilty to Producing Child Pornography Under Threats and Blackmail

RICHMOND, Va. – A Richmond man pleaded guilty today to production of child sexual abuse material.

According to court documents, in or around February of 2019, Joshua Hitchener, 34, began exchanging messages on the Kik Messenger application with a 15-year-old girl. Despite knowing that he was corresponding with a minor, Hitchener convinced the girl to send him nude photos of herself. Hitchener then used his possession of those pornographic images to threaten and blackmail his victim into creating and sending additional pornographic images and video to him. The defendant’s threats included his assurances to the girl that he would kidnap her, kill her family, and “rape and beat [the victim] several times a day.” Hitchener also instructed his victim to “brand” herself by drawing his screenname on various parts of her body, and to record herself performing sexual acts—and to send the images and videos of those actions to the defendant.

Hitchener is scheduled to be sentenced on July 21. He faces a mandatory minimum penalty of 15 years and a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Stanley M. Meador, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Richmond Field Office, made the announcement after U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark R. Colombell accepted the plea.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Heather H. Mansfield, Peter S. Duffey, and Thomas A. Garnett are prosecuting the case.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and CEOS, 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 http://www.justice.gov/psc.

In 2021, EDVA launched “UnMasked,” a community-based educational outreach and prevention program in Virginia dedicated to raising awareness and educating the community about the prevalence of online sexual exploitation involving children and young adults. UnMasked is a multi-disciplinary partnership of local, state, federal, and non-profit stakeholders. The core curriculum is provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s (NCMEC) NetSmartz program. To report an incident involving online sexual exploitation, call 1-800-843-5678 or submit a report at report.cybertip.org. To request an UnMasked event at your school or organization, please contact EDVA’s Community Outreach Coordinator at USAVAE-UnMasked@usdoj.gov.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 3:21-cr-122.

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Childhood
Contact: 
USAVAE.Press@usdoj.gov
Updated April 22, 2022