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Press Release

Spirit Lake Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Possession of Child Pornography

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Iowa
Hicks also admitted previously grooming vulnerable children with gifts, drugs, and alcohol in order to sexually abuse them

A man who possessed child pornography was sentenced March 9, 2021, to 13 years in federal prison.

Paul Frances Hicks, age 65, from Spirit Lake, Iowa, received the prison term after a September 22, 2020, guilty plea to one count of possession of child pornography. 

At the plea hearing, Hicks admitted that on September 8, 2016, he possessed visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, including a depiction involving a prepubescent minor or a minor who had not attained 12 years of age.  During the execution of a search warrant at Hick’s residence on September 8, 2016, law enforcement seized an HP laptop computer.  The computer was forensically examined and contained at least 146 images of child pornography.

Hicks was sentenced in Sioux City by United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand.  Several former victims were present at the sentencing.  At the sentencing, Hicks admitted to grooming multiple children since the 1970s with gifts, drugs, and alcohol to sexually abuse them.  Hicks tended to prey on families experiencing turmoil and offered to babysit the children in order to gain access to his victims.  Hicks was sentenced to 156 months’ imprisonment.   He must also serve a 5-year term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system.

Acting United States Attorney Sean Berry stated “Our community is made safer every time a child predator is sentenced to prison.  We thank our law enforcement partners for their dedication and good work on this case.”

Hicks is being held in the United States Marshal’s custody until he can be transported to a federal prison.

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.”

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Mikala Steenholdt and investigated by The Iowa Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the FBI Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations, the Spirit Lake Police Department, and the Dickinson County Attorney’s Office.

Court file information at

The case file number is 20-CR-4004.

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Updated March 10, 2021

Project Safe Childhood