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Press Release

Retired Cook Children’s Hospital Chaplain Sentenced to 60 Years in Prison for Child Pornography

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Texas

A Fort Worth, Texas man who recorded himself sexually abusing a minor was sentenced yesterday to 60 years in federal prison, announced U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Leigha Simonton.

Michael Downs, 71, a retired Cook Children’s Hospital chaplain, was charged via criminal complaint in March 2023 and pleaded guilty in July 2023 to two counts of sexual exploitation of children. He was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Mark Pittman, who also ordered a lifetime of supervised release.

“This is an incredibly important case involving shocking and abhorrent conduct,” said U.S. Attorney Simonton.  “One of our most veteran prosecutors worked on this matter along with our partners at Homeland Security Investigations and the Fort Worth Police Department to ensure that this defendant was brought to justice.  Let this be a message to others who seek to prey on children in this way: We will do everything in our power to incapacitate you by locking you away in prison for as long as possible.” 

“While preying on the vulnerability of our youth, those in positions of public trust should expect the most stern accountability for their actions,” said HSI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Lester R. Hayes Jr. “Due to our strong partnership with the Fort Worth Police Department, we were again successful in prosecuting another sexual predator and preventing the victimization of more children.”

According to plea papers, the investigation began on January 22, 2023 after a seventeen-year-old minor told her aunt she had been sexually abused by Mr. Downs. The minor female said Mr. Downs recorded the sexual abuse on an iPad.

Mr. Downs’ wife provided law enforcement with several electronic devices from their residence. Law enforcement located a hard drive that contained numerous videos and photos of Mr. Downs engaging in sexually explicit conduct with the minor.

Homeland Security Investigations and the Fort Worth Police Department conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Aisha Saleem prosecuted the case.


Erin Dooley

Public Affairs Officer


Updated December 15, 2023

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