Man Sentenced to 25 Years in Federal Prison for Attempted Production of Child Pornography
Spokane – Joseph H. Harrington, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced James Lee Crooker, age 36, was sentenced today, after having pleaded guilty to three counts of attempted production of child pornography, each involving a different victim, on June 17, 2020. Chief United States District Judge Stanley A. Bastian sentenced Crooker to a 25-year term of imprisonment, to be followed by a lifetime term of court supervision after he is released from federal prison.
Crooker had previously entered a guilty plea to one count of production of child pornography pertaining to one minor aged victim, and he was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. However, on his motion, his conviction and sentence were vacated. Today’s 25-year sentence follows a superseding indictment, wherein he was charged with additional acts of child exploitation, several of which committed against additional victims.
According to information disclosed during court proceedings, the investigation began after law enforcement received information about sexually-explicit communications on a cellular telephone between a 15-year-old developmentally delayed child and a then 32-year-old male, James Lee Crooker. Investigators quickly determined Crooker was a registered sex offender. As the investigation progressed, authorities learned that Crooker had asked the child to send him sexually explicit photographs of herself and she sent them through Facebook and Kik Messenger. She had told Crooker she was 15-years old, but he still requested the photos. She had met Crooker in person and they had discussed meeting to engage in sex. Investigators found the explicit photographs the minor victim sent on Crooker’s smartphone.
While Crooker was under investigation for the photographs produced of the 15-year old child, Facebook alerted law enforcement that Crooker was also communicating in a sexually-explicit manner with a 13-year old child in Ohio, who had also taken and sent sexually-explicit photographs to Crooker who was in Eastern Washington via Facebook, at his request.
In November, 2019, the FBI interviewed another child who resided locally and who investigators believed to be a witness to other aspects of the case. However, the child soon revealed to the FBI Agent that she too had been in a sexual relationship with Crooker, when she was 16 years old. Crooker communicated with her primarily via Facebook. Crooker asked her for sexually explicit photographs repeatedly.
At sentencing Chief Judge Bastian noted he felt compelled to protect the public and provide adequate deterrence from future misconduct. Judge Bastian told Crooker he gave him credit for pleading guilty but noted, “you have accepted responsibility reluctantly and late.” Crooker had commented he knew it was time for him to grow up, to which Judge Bastian responded, that was good, but he had victimized children who wanted to grow up too and wanted to grow up not being a victim.
Acting U.S. Attorney Joseph H. Harrington said, “The lengthy sentence imposed today demonstrates the severity of Crooker’s criminal conduct. The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington is committed to protecting vulnerable victims and prosecuting individuals who engage in conduct in which they attempt to produce child pornography and sexually exploit children. I commend the outstanding work of our federal and state partners who worked collaboratively in the investigation of this case.”
This case was pursued as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the United States 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 individuals, who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. The Project Safe Childhood Initiative (“PSC”) has five major components:
· Integrated federal, state, and local efforts to investigate and prosecute child exploitation cases, and to identify and rescue children;
· Participation of PSC partners in coordinated national initiatives;
· Increased federal enforcement in child pornography and enticement cases;
· Training of federal, state, and local law enforcement agents; and
· Community awareness and educational programs.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the Yakima Police Department, Yakima County Sheriff’s Office, and the Southeast Regional Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. This case was prosecuted by Alison L. Gregoire, Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.