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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Pennsylvania

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Scranton Man Charged With Possessing And Distributing Child Pornography

SCRANTON—The United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania announced today that Shawn Howells, age 43, of Scranton, Pennsylvania, was indicted by a federal grand jury with possessing and distributing child pornography.


According to United States Attorney Bruce D. Brandler, the indictment alleges that between November 29, 2016 and January 20, 2017, Shawn Howells used the internet to view a minor engaging in illegal sexual activity, and during that same time period transported child pornography by any means, including by computer.


The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Evan Gotlob is prosecuting the case.


If convicted, Howells faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years in prison and a potential maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the possessing and distributing child pornography.


This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the 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. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit For more information about internet safety education, please visit and click on the tab "resources."


Indictments and Criminal Informations are only allegations. All persons charged are presumed to be innocent unless and until found guilty in court.


A sentence following a finding of guilt is imposed by the Judge after consideration of the applicable federal sentencing statutes and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.


If convicted, Howells faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a maximum penalty under federal law for this offense is 20 years’ imprisonment, a term of supervised release following imprisonment, and a fine. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the Judge is also required to consider and weigh a number of factors, including the nature, circumstances and seriousness of the offense; the history and characteristics of the defendant; and the need to punish the defendant, protect the public and provide for the defendant's educational, vocational and medical needs. For these reasons, the statutory maximum penalty for the offense is not an accurate indicator of the potential sentence for a specific defendant.


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Project Safe Childhood
Updated January 31, 2017