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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of New Mexico

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, July 13, 2018

Previously Convicted Sex Offender from Albuquerque Arraigned on Federal Child Pornography Charges

If Convicted, James Highfield Faces Enhanced Penalty of Statutory Mandatory Minimum of 35 Years to Life Imprisonment Due to Prior Sex Offense Convictions; Prosecution Brought Under Project Safe Childhood

ALBUQUERQUE – James Highfield, 63, of Albuquerque, N.M., was arraigned this morning in federal court on an indictment charging him with child pornography offenses and committing a federal sex offense involving a minor while required to register as a sex offender.  Highfield entered a not guilty plea to the charges during this morning’s arraignment hearing.  Highfield was ordered detained pending trial based on judicial findings that he poses a risk of flight and a danger to the community.

U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson said that Highfield, whose criminal history includes two prior convictions for sex offenses including a child sex offense and who was required to register as a sex offender, is being prosecuted as part of a federal anti-violence initiative that targets violent, repeat offenders for federal prosecution.  Under this initiative, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal law enforcement agencies work with New Mexico’s District Attorneys and state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to target violent or repeat offenders primarily based on their prior criminal convictions for federal prosecution offenders with the goal of making communities in New Mexico safer places for people to live and work.

The indictment, which was filed on June 26, 2018, charges Highfield with six counts of production of child pornography and one count of commission of a felony sex offense involving a minor by an individual required to register as a sex offender.  The first six counts of the indictment allege that on six dates in Sept. 2017 and Oct. 2017, Highfield persuaded, enticed and coerced a child under the age of 18 to engage in sexually explicit conduct so he could produce child pornography.  Count 7 alleges that Highfield, an individual required to register as a sex offender, committed the sex offenses involving a minor that are charged in the first six counts of the indictment.  The indictment alleges that Highfield committed the offenses in Bernalillo County, N.M.

Highfield was arrested on the indictment earlier today after he was transferred into federal custody from state custody where he was being held on related state charges filed by the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

The penalty for a conviction on a production of child pornography charge is a statutory mandatory minimum of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years of imprisonment.  A defendant with one prior qualifying sex offense conviction faces an enhanced penalty of a statutory mandatory minimum of 25 years and a maximum of 50 years of imprisonment.  A defendant with two prior qualifying sex offense convictions faces an enhanced penalty of a statutory mandatory minimum of 35 years and a maximum of life imprisonment. 

The penalty for a conviction for committing a felony sex offense involving a minor by an individual required to register as a sex offender is ten years of imprisonment, which must be served consecutive to any sentence imposed on other offenses.

The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case, with assistance from the Albuquerque office of Homeland Security Investigations and the 2nd Judicial District Attorney’s Office.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah Mease is prosecuting the case as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.  Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and DOJ’s Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, 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 to identify and rescue victims.  For information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit http://www.justice.gov/psc/.

The case also was brought as a part of the New Mexico Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force’s mission, which is to locate, track, and capture Internet child sexual predators and Internet child pornographers in New Mexico.  There are 86 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies associated with the New Mexico ICAC Task Force, which is funded by a grant administered by the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office.  Anyone with information relating to suspected child predators and suspected child abuse is encouraged to contact federal or local law enforcement.

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Childhood
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Updated July 13, 2018