Ninth Circuit Upholds Craig A. Morgenstern’s Sentence of Twelve Life Terms
Spokane – Joseph H. Harrington, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the convictions of Craig A. Morgenstern, age 49, of Nine Mile Falls, Washington, that resulted in 12 life terms of imprisonment. In 2016, a federal trial jury found Morgenstern guilty of 12 counts of Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Child; 18 counts of Production and Attempted Production of Child Pornography; two counts of Travel with Intent to Engage in Illicit Sexual Contact with a Minor; and, one count of Receipt of Child Pornography. Senior United States District Judge W. Fremming Nielsen sentenced Morgenstern to 12 life terms in federal prison for the Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Child convictions; a 30-year term of imprisonment for each of the Production and Attempted Production of Child Pornography convictions; a 20-year term of imprisonment for each conviction for Travel with Intent to Engage in Illicit Sexual Contact with a Minor; and, a 20-year term of imprisonment for the Receipt of Child Pornography conviction.
According to evidence introduced at trial, Morgenstern sexually assaulted six young boys and produced child pornography images of the assaults from 2008 through 2014. The victims ranged in age from 7 to 15 years old at the time of the assaults. Evidence at trial also established that Morgenstern traveled to Idaho, Mississippi, and Tennessee in order to sexually molest the same victims and produce child pornography images for his own sexual gratification. Evidence also established that Morgenstern would incapacitate his victims using drugs so that the victims were unaware of the sexual abuse and so Morgenstern could continue his crimes and avoid detection.
Evidence at trial also established that Morgenstern’s crimes were discovered after one of his victims, then a minor child less than 14 years old, escaped from Morgenstern’s residence in Stevens County on October 18, 2014 after awaking to Morgenstern sexually assaulting him during the early morning hours. Subsequent investigation and evidence led to the discovery of the additional victims.
Following sentencing, Morgenstern appealed his convictions to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Ninth Circuit rejected all of Morgenstern’s arguments, noting that “[t]he jury was presented with an overwhelming amount of digital evidence that depicted Morgenstern performing sex acts on the victims.”
Joseph H. Harrington said “Morgenstern is a sexual predator who used his position as a doctor and the trust of unsuspecting families to prey on children for his own selfish sexual gratification. If not for the brave actions of his last victim, the hard work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office, and the resilience of all of Morgenstern’s victims and the victims’ families at trial, Morgenstern’s crimes would have gone undiscovered and unpunished. Ultimately, Morgenstern received a just and fair trial and a just and fair sentence and he will never again be able to victimize another child or another unsuspecting family.”
The case was prosecuted 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 and the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Stephanie J. Lister and James A. Goeke, Assistant U. S. Attorneys for the Eastern District of Washington.