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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Indiana

Friday, February 20, 2015

Muncie man sentenced to 50 years for production of child pornography

Indianapolis – Josh J. Minkler, Acting United States Attorney, announced today that a Muncie man was sentenced in federal court for his role in the production and distribution of child pornography. Joel D. Hilton, 42, Muncie, was sentenced to 50 year by U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt.

“Protecting our innocent children from internet predators will remain a top priority of our office,” said Minkler. “Producing and distributing pornography re-victimizes our children every time it is passed from one person to another.”

In July 2014, agents from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the Hamilton County Metro Child Exploitation Task Force (HCMCETF) received information a website that Hilton had access to, was being used to trade child pornography. Investigators examined the photographs and determined from the background, that many of the pictures were taken in Muncie, Indiana. Further investigation determined the victims were sisters, between seven and eight years old and Hilton had produced pornographic images by photographing the victims in sexually explicit activities. He would then post the images to a website to be traded with others in his networking group.

Investigators went to Hilton’s Muncie home to interview him and noticed a tattoo on his hand, similar to those depicted on internet pornographic photos. He was then placed under arrest. Law enforcement also confiscated several electronic devices used to produce and distribute the pornography.

Minkler praised the two investigative agencies, noting the arrest of Hilton was made less than six hours after authorities learned of his identity, saving many more potential victims.

This case was jointly investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and the Hamilton County Metropolitan Child Exploitation Task Force.

 “The lengthy prison term in this case is well deserved," said Gary Hartwig, special agent in charge of HSI Chicago. "This individual manipulated and preyed upon vulnerable children for his own twisted sexual gratification. In doing so, he stole their innocence. HSI must and will do everything in our power to protect our children and bring those involved in these despicable crimes to justice.”

Andy Dietz, Director of the HCMCETF said, “This case underscores the value of having well trained investigators working together, and in cooperation across international boundaries focused on a single mission. The safety of our children is paramount and we will work with all of our local, state and federal partners to track down anyone who preys on the innocent.”

According to Senior Litigation Counsel Steven D. DeBrota, who prosecuted this case for the government, Hilton has multiple prior convictions for sex crimes and faces lifetime supervised release after serving his sentence.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 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


Updated February 26, 2015