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Justice News

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

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Multiple Defendants Charged with Federal Offenses Related to Child Pornography

Federal Complaint Alleges 35 year old Gresham Man, His Father and His Girlfriend Involved in Production and Possession of Child Pornography

PORTLAND, Ore. – James Lee Hickerson, 35, of Gresham, Oregon, was arrested Tuesday after Magistrate Judge Stewart approved a criminal complaint charging him with receipt and possession of child pornography. According to information presented at the detention hearing, following his arrest, James Hickerson admitted sexually abusing his girlfriend’s child, in both Washington and Oregon, and taking screen shots of his girlfriend abusing her child while they were Skyping.  Hickerson made his initial appearance in federal court on Wednesday.  If convicted of the pending charges, Hickerson faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison, and up to 30 years.  He would also be required to serve a minimum of five years on supervision upon release from prison, and be required to register as a sex offender. A release decision regarding defendant Hickerson’s custody status is pending further review by the court.

Neil Lee Hickerson, 56, of Gresham, Oregon, is charged in a separate complaint with possession of child pornography. Neil Hickerson is James Hickerson’s father. Because Neil Hickerson has previously been convicted of an offense relating to abusive sexual conduct relating to a minor, he is facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, and up to 20 years, in prison, to be followed by a minimum of five years, and up to life, on supervised release.  Neil Hickerson also made an initial appearance before Magistrate Judge Stewart on Wednesday, and was temporarily detained pending a detention hearing set for Friday, August 29 at 1:30.

Carolyn M. Knudsen, 28, of Camas, Washington, is charged in a separate criminal complaint with production of child pornography and aiding and abetting.  If convicted of the charges, Knudsen is facing a mandatory minimum of 15 years in prison, and up to 30 years.  She would also be required to serve a minimum of five years on supervised release after completion of her prison sentence, and would be required to register as a sex offender.  Knudsen was also arrested Tuesday and made her initial appearance in federal court Wednesday afternoon.  Her detention hearing is also set for Friday.  Magistrate Judge Stewart ordered Knudsen detained pending the hearing.

The cases arose after law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at the Hickersons’ residence, believing they had one suspect, and discovered evidence leading to the charges against all three defendants.  As a result, law enforcement also identified and rescued a young child in Camas, Washington, who, evidence revealed, had been sexually abused.  The matter was referred to Child Protective Services in Vancouver, Washington.  

All three cases will be presented to a federal grand jury, and additional charges may be filed.

“This is a heartbreaking case, but thanks to the great investigators who executed the search warrant, a very young child was rescued from further sexual abuse,” said U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall.  “These offenses are insidious, and when exposed, are often met with shock, and even disbelief.  Sadly, these cases are all too common.  My office will continue to charge these crimes and pursue sentences that ensure all of those who abuse or exploit children are punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.  Launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice and led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), 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 more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

A criminal complaint is only an accusation of a crime, and a defendant should be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The case is being investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI); the Interagency Child Exploitation Prevention Team (INTERCEPT); and the Camas and Vancouver, Washington, police departments, and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Shoemaker, Chief of the Violent Crimes Unit for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oregon.

Updated January 29, 2015