COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA — Derek Jerome Nelson, 33, of Augusta, Georgia, was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to enticement of a minor for sexual activity, to be followed by a lifetime of supervision and registration as a sex offender.
According to evidence presented in Court, in June and July 2019, when Nelson was 30 years old, he enticed a 13-year-old minor girl into sexual conduct. Nelson met the victim through an online social media application, communicated with her by text message, and then moved the communications to an end-to-end encrypted chat, also through an internet-based cell phone application. Through that application, Nelson engaged in sexually explicit conversations with the minor and he arranged to travel from Augusta, GA, to the Columbia, SC, area to exploit the minor.
On July 7, 2019 around 3:00 AM, a Richland County Sheriff’s Department patrol deputy noticed a vehicle parked at a vacant business. When the deputy approached, he observed two occupants in the back seat before a man later identified as Nelson climbed into the driver’s seat. Nelson then ignored commands from police, fled from the scene, and took police on a 2-mile car chase at speeds as high as 90 miles per hour.
During the chase, the 13-year-old victim was thrown from the car. Evidence presented in Court indicated Nelson made her jump from the car against her will. As a result, the minor victim suffered severe injuries that required emergency treatment.
Nelson then admitted to deputies that he had engaged in sexual contact with the minor, and a review of Nelson’s phone and the minor victim’s phone revealed sexually explicit images, videos, and messages sent between them, including a video of Nelson abusing the minor. Evidence on Nelson’s phone also revealed that he knew the victim was 13-years-old before the night of his arrest.
Senior United States District Judge Cameron McGowan Currie sentenced Nelson to 15 years in federal prison, to be followed by a lifetime of court-ordered supervision, and Nelson will have to register as a sex offender after release. There is no parole in the federal system.
The case was investigated by the FBI with critical assistance from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Elliott B. Daniels and T. DeWayne Pearson prosecuted the case.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorney’s 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, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
Brook Andrews, U.S. Attorney’s Office, firstname.lastname@example.org, (803) 929-3000