Jury Convicts Repeat Offender of Distributing, Attempting to Receive, and Possessing Child Pornography
Benjamin Jakes-Johnson was Previously Convicted for Possessing Child Pornography and Offered a Defense of Insanity at Trial
SYRACUSE, NEW YORK – Yesterday evening a jury rejected a defense of insanity and convicted Benjamin Jakes-Johnson, age 42, of New York City and Syracuse, New York, of distributing, attempting to receive, and possessing child pornography, after a five-day jury trial. The verdict was announced by United States Attorney Grant C. Jaquith, Susan Ferensic, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Albany Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and New York State Police Superintendent Keith Corlett.
The evidence at trial demonstrated that the defendant, who was convicted of possessing child pornography in 2008, used an online peer-to-peer file-sharing program to distribute and attempt to receive child pornography in December 2016. In March 2017, execution of a search warrant at a Syracuse apartment where the defendant regularly stayed established that he possessed child pornography on a thumb drive recovered there. The defendant traded child pornography from hotels, hoping that by using the hotels’ Wi-Fi connections he could conceal his online activity. He also possessed child pornography at the Syracuse apartment leased by his family’s business because he believed that federal Probation Officers would not search that location because he reported to them that he was staying at his parents’ home or other locations.
During trial, Jakes-Johnson claimed that, although he was not insane at the time he first possessed child pornography in 2008, he was insane at the time he committed the offenses in 2016 and 2017 because of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Jakes-Johnson suggested he had PTSD from abuse he suffered as a child that was exacerbated by abuse he claimed to have experienced while serving a sentence in federal prison from his first child pornography conviction. In addition to both defense and government expert witnesses who testified about the defendant’s mental state, the jury heard a recorded interview between Jakes-Johnson and law enforcement officers on the day of his arrest. During the interview, he advised that he understood what he was facing and knew what was going on. During that same interview, Jakes-Johnson admitted the offense conduct and displayed an understanding of the potential penalties he could face as a repeat offender.
Jakes-Johnson is scheduled to be sentenced on July 15, 2020 in Binghamton, New York by Senior United States District Judge Thomas J. McAvoy. At sentencing, he faces a mandatory minimum term of 15 years and a maximum term of imprisonment of 40 years for his distribution and attempt to receive child pornography. He faces a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 10 years and a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years for his possession of child pornography. A defendant’s sentence is imposed by a judge based on the particular statute(s) the defendant violated, the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, and other factors.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the New York State Police, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Geoffrey J.L. Brown and Michael D. Gadarian.
This case was prosecuted as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit http://www.justice.gov/psc/.