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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, September 26, 2016

Spokane, Washington Man Sentenced to 25 Years in Federal Prison for Attempted Production of Child Pornography

Spokane – Michael C. Ormsby, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that Steven Harris, of Spokane, Washington, was sentenced today after having previously pleaded guilty on June 28, 2016, to attempted production of child pornography. United States District Judge Salvador Mendoza, Jr. sentenced Harris to a 25-year term of imprisonment, to be followed by a life-term of court supervision after he is released from Federal prison. In addition, Harris will be required to register as a sex offender.

According to information disclosed during the court proceedings, an investigation began in September, 2015 after Harris, a registered sex offender who had served as a volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America, uploaded a file containing child pornography from a specific Internet Protocol address to Omegle.com (a free online video chat website that randomly pairs users in one-on-one chat sessions where they chat anonymously using the names "You" and "Stranger”). The Internet Protocol address was linked to Harris’ residence. Law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Harris’s residence and seized several electronic devices – officers discovered Harris not only possessed and distributed child pornography, he produced it, using websites like Omegle and Skype.

Officers discovered that Harris produced a library of child pornography which consisted primarily of juvenile boys masturbating. Harris utilized more than one means to get the children to masturbate, so that he could produce the recordings. For example, some of the victims were made to believe that Harris was a minor-aged girl. Harris maintained a series of webcam videos of a teenage girl, which he would use to entice juvenile boys to masturbate. Harris had the video files divided into several sections to include “brunetteshow,” “brunettetalk,” “brunettetalk2,” “Brunettetease,” “brunettewave,” and so on. All of the videos portrayed the same pubescent female waiving, communicating, exposing her chest, and dancing nude. Harris purported to be the teenage girl himself and would play the clips in a logical order that made sense with the conversation. The conversation was typed, as Harris informed his juvenile victims his computer’s microphone did not work. Harris would type that if the boys would get naked or masturbate, the teenage girl would do certain things of a sexual nature in return. When the children would eventually masturbate, Harris would record the acts and store the video on his computer.

Harris also used virtual webcam software to play child pornography over Omegle. The internet users he was randomly paired with on Omegle would either see the pornography and immediately move on or stay and watch the video. If juveniles stayed they were encouraged to engage in sexually explicit acts. If they did so, Harris would capture the acts on video and save the video.

Harris captured videos of children masturbating for a period of approximately two years. Harris’s desktop computer contained two folders of pictures which stored illegal images. One folder was for raw video he captured. The other was entitled, “Record.” Within that folder was a subfolder called “Save” which contained child pornography Harris produced, and within that folder was yet another subfolder, indicative of Harris’s goal in meeting the children on Omegle, entitled, “Win,” which contained over 500 videos nearly exclusively of boys masturbating. Harris shared some of the videos he created with other internet users, in exchange for other child pornography.

At sentencing a very contrite Harris told the judge that he understood the sentencing to be “less about me and more about the people that I’ve hurt, and I think that is right. I think your consideration should be more about the victims.” Harris detailed his remorse and stated, “Had I not been caught, I probably would have accelerated into more and more dangerous behaviors.”

When imposing the 25 year sentence, Judge Mendoza stated that Harris’s actions would have “far reaching consequences for the victims,” noting that “we are talking about real children here. These are real people, and not just real people, real children.” He went on to state, “The fact you were assisting in the creation of this material and assisting in the marketplace for this material is very concerning.”

Michael C. Ormsby said, “This case is a fine example of the great work that can be done when state and federal law enforcement work together. Harris fully exploited the anonymity the video chat site afforded him to the great harm of unsuspecting children. Today’s sentence should serve as a warning to those who think they are acting with immunity online; such criminals will be actively and aggressively pursued by federal and state law enforcement.”

This 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.

For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc . For information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab "resources."

This investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in conjunction with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. The case was prosecuted by Alison L. Gregoire, an Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.

2:15-CR-0135-SMJ
Updated September 26, 2016