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Press Release

Former Columbia Resident Sentenced For Receipt And Possession Of Child Pornography

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Illinois

A former Columbia, Illinois, resident was sentenced on June 20, 2014, on a two-count Indictment, charging him, in Count 1, with Receipt of Visual Depictions of Minors Engaged in Sexually Explicit Conduct, and, in Count 2, with Possession of Visual Depictions of Minors Engaged in Sexually Explicit Conduct, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, announced today. Neil E. Purdy, 30, a member of the Navy Reserves and formerly of Columbia, was sentenced to 108 months in federal prison on both counts, to run concurrently, to be followed by a 10 year term of supervised release on each count, also to run concurrently, ordered to pay a $2,500 fine on each count, for a total fine of $5,000, and ordered to pay a $200 special assessment. In addition, when released from prison, Purdy must register as a sex offender as a condition of his supervised release.

The investigation began on February 7, 2012, when an individual contacted the Columbia, Illinois, Police Department to report that the defendant molested his/her fourteen year old child. He/she also told the Columbia police that he/she saw the defendant “google” the phrase, “where can I find really young porn.” He/she said that, when he/she asked Purdy, “How long have you had this little problem?” Purdy responded “about three years.” Evidence at sentencing revealed that, as a direct result of Purdy’s molestation, the child no longer stayed with the parent because he/she felt that the parent could not protect him/her.

On February 16, 2012, Purdy, a member of the Navy Reserve with Top Secret clearance, provided a voluntary, videotaped statement to Columbia Police Officers in which he admitted the molestation of the fourteen year old (Purdy also served a prison term of 180 days in Monroe County Jail for criminal sexual abuse relating to the molestation of the fourteen year old), stating that he “had a problem.” There was also evidence introduced at sentencing that Purdy, while awaiting sentencing on the state charge, stated that he was trying to get administrative leave from the Navy Reserves before “they f[ou]nd out” about his criminal charges so that he could avoid a dishonorable discharge.

When questioned about searching for or possessing child pornography, Purdy admitted that he possessed videos and images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct on his laptop computer. Purdy told the officers that the videos and images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct were under his username, and that his username was password protected. Purdy also admitted using a file sharing program and terms commonly associated with child pornography to search for videos and/or images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Purdy estimated that he had approximately fifteen (15) videos and less than twenty (20) images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct on the laptop computer. The videos were mostly of girls, between the ages of 4 and 13, engaged in sexual activity with themselves, another child or an adult, or lasciviously displaying their genitals.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit For more information about internet safety education, please visit and click on the tab “resources.”

The case was investigated by the Columbia, Illinois, Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Springfield Child Exploitation Task Force (SCETF). The case was assigned to Assistant United States Attorney Angela Scott.

Updated February 19, 2015