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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, July 24, 2014

United States Attorney Announces Sentence For Clark County Man On Child Pornography Charges

Hogsett continues aggressive fight against child pornography and proves “Operation Community Watch” an ongoing success

NEW ALBANY– Joseph H. Hogsett, United States Attorney, announced today the conviction and sentence of George M. Thornton, 32, Jeffersonville, for possession of child pornography. Thornton was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison by United States District Judge Sarah Evans Barker.

“Protecting the most innocent Hoosier victims is a top priority of this office. Those who question my sincerity will be shown the seriousness of this promise,” said Hogsett.

In 2011, Thornton was apprehended by the Jeffersonville Police Department for peeping into the windows of a residence, specifically into a room occupied by a minor male. Law enforcement officers determined that Thornton was on probation and contacted his probation officer. During a subsequent search of Thornton’s residence, an external hard drive was located. A forensic examination of this hard drive revealed a total of 25 images depicting prepubescent males engaged in sexually explicit activity.

At the time of Thornton’s arrest, a cell phone was recovered from inside his truck near the residence of which he was peeping into windows. The cell phone was found to contain a video of a minor male driving Thornton’s truck while being recorded by Thornton. Also discovered in his truck were two nylon belts and a knife with four circular blades.

In 1999, Thornton was convicted of child molestation in Clark County, Indiana, and sentenced to a period of ten years’ incarceration, with four years suspended to probation. His probation was revoked in 2007 when he was convicted of two counts of possession of child pornography in Clark County, Indiana. Thornton was sentenced to four years’ incarceration and six years’ probation. Thornton was later convicted of failing to register as a sex offender and sentenced to seven years’ incarceration and four years’ probation. Thornton had served only nine months of the probation portion of this sentence when he possessed the child pornography in this case.

“This type of behavior is deplorable and must be stopped,” Hogsett said. “That is why we launched Operation Community Watch last year – to protect Hoosier families and send a message.”

This arrest comes one year after Hogsett announced a comprehensive crackdown on child exploitation in Indiana. In 2013, Hogsett launched Operation Community Watch, which has allowed prosecutors and investigators to use cutting-edge techniques to identify and charge people in Hoosier communities who are engaged in the receipt and trafficking of child pornography materials.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a larger nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Hogsett pointed out that in the last Project Safe Childhood reporting year, the Office prosecuted 65 defendants, an increase of 25% over the prior year.

Led nationally 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.

According to Assistant United States Attorney Joe Vaughn, who prosecuted the case for the government, Thornton will be subject to supervised release for life after serving his sentence.

Updated January 26, 2015