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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Montana

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, September 16, 2019

Belgrade man sentenced to 20 years in prison for child porn crimes

MISSOULA—Belgrade resident John Michael Whitehead, who admitted child pornography crimes after sending an undercover agent images of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct, was sentenced today to 20 years in prison, followed by 20 years of supervised release and $3,000 restitution to one of the victims, U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said.

Whitehead, 36, pleaded guilty in March to distribution of child porn and receipt of child porn.

Chief U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen presided.

“Child pornography crimes will not be tolerated in Montana and those who seek to harm children for sexual gratification will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Every person who distributes or receives child pornography re-injures the victims,” U.S. Attorney Alme said.

“I want to thank Assistant U.S. Attorney Cyndee Peterson, who prosecuted the case, along with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, FBI, Homeland Security Investigations and Washington D.C. Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. I also want to thank our Montana law enforcement partners, including the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, Bozeman Police Department, Belgrade Police Department, Lewis and Clark Sheriff’s Office, Helena Police Department and Montana Department of Child and Family Services,” U.S. Attorney Alme said.

"When crimes against children fall under the authority of the FBI, we will act swiftly to protect society's most vulnerable and investigate those who exploit them," said Paul Haertel, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's Salt Lake City Field Office.  “The FBI is appreciative of our law enforcement partners’ expeditious assistance and cooperation in ensuring the safety and welfare of Montana’s children.”

In court documents filed in the case, the prosecution said that in December 2018, an undercover agent with the FBI’s Task Force in Washington, D.C., was chatting online with Whitehead in a group known to exchange child porn. During the chat, Whitehead sent the agent an image of a child engaged in sexually explicit conduct. In January, Whitehead again sent the agent a video of a prepubescent child engaged in sexually explicit conduct with an adult male.

The investigation led to the execution of a search warrant of Whitehead’s residence on Jan. 9, 2019. Agents seized multiple items, including two smart phones. Whitehead admitted in an interview with agents that he had been using an app on his phone to trade child porn. Investigators found videos and images of child porn on the two phones.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Cyndee Peterson prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, FBI, Homeland Security Investigations and the Washington D.C. Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

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Clair Johnson Howard Public Information Officer 406-247-4623
Updated September 16, 2019