MACON, Ga. – A Middle Georgia resident was sentenced to serve more than six years in prison for possessing child sexual assault material resulting from an ongoing Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) effort combatting child exploitation online.
John Wesley Mitchem, 31, of Thomaston, Georgia, was sentenced to serve 80 months in prison to be followed by ten years of supervised release by U.S. District Judge Marc Treadwell on May 3, after he previously pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography. In addition, Mitchem will have to register as a sex offender upon his release from federal prison. There is no parole in the federal system.
“Our office will pursue federal prosecution against child predators who download, possess and share child sexual assault material,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “HSI investigators are working around the clock, along with federal, state and local authorities across the state, to capture and bring to justice all those who lurk online, where children are harmed each and every time images of their assault and manipulation are downloaded and shared.”
“Finding, arresting and prosecuting those who create, share and or collect these horrific images of abuse and exploitation is one of our most important missions,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “HSI and its law enforcement partners will continue to work to protect our most vulnerable population from those looking to exploit them.”
According to court documents and evidence submitted in court, HSI’s Child Exploitation Investigation Group (HSI-CEIG) Atlanta, received information from HSI Detroit that an individual employing the Kik application was in contact with an undercover HSI agent and had sent the undercover agent three images that contained child sexual assault material. Mitchem was identified as the Kik user and agents executed a federal search warrant at his Thomaston residence on March 13, 2020. A forensic examination of Mitchem’s digital devices found six images and one video of child sexual exploitation material depicting infants and toddlers. Mitchem admitted that he shared the three images with the undercover agent using his cellular device from his residence.
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 the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the DOJ’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
The case was investigated by HSI Atlanta, with assistance from HSI Detroit.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Alex Kalim prosecuted the case.