Two Project Safe Childhood Defendants Plead Guilty
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Defendants in two separate Project Safe Childhood cases pled guilty, announced United States Attorney Mike Stuart.
“These are despicable crimes,” said United States Attorney Mike Stuart. “Our partners are working around the clock to track down sexual exploiters of children. We will prosecute each and every one and seek the maximum penalty by law.”
Christopher Charles Hirst, 26, of Hurricane, pled guilty to receipt of child pornography. Hirst admitted that beginning in approximately August 2018 he began a relationship with a 14-year-old girl from Putnam County. During the course of that relationship, Hirst repeatedly asked the minor to send him sexually explicit photographs via the Snapchat app. When the minor ultimately sent the images, Hirst preserved those images without the minor’s knowledge. Hirst also admitted to taking several sexually explicit images of the minor in person, including one depicting them engaged in a sexual act. Hirst faces at least 5 years and up to 20 years in prison when sentenced on May 11, 2020. Following his release from prison, Hirst will be required to register as a sex offender. The Putnam County Sheriff’s Department and Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation. United States District Judge Robert C. Chambers presided over the hearing. Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer Rada Herrald is handling the prosecution.
Joey Michael King, 39, of Elkview, pled guilty to attempted enticement of a minor that occurred online in February 2019. King admitted that in February 2019, he communicated via a social messaging application with a minor he believed to be a 15-year-old girl located in Bridgeport, West Virginia. In reality, the minor was a Task Force Officer with the West Virginia State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and he was operating in an undercover capacity. Despite knowing the purported minor’s age, King repeatedly requested who he believed to be a minor to take sexually explicit photographs of her female genitals and to send them to him both via text and email. King provided who he believed to be a minor with his personal cell phone number and his personal email – both of which matched the phone number and email that King provided to the West Virginia Sex Offender Registry in his January 2019 Sex Offender Registration Report. King faces a mandatory minimum sentence of at least ten years imprisonment and up to life in prison when he is sentenced on May 7, 2020. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, in conjunction with the West Virginia State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the Bridgeport Police Department, and the Nitro Police Department conducted the investigation. United States District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin presided over the hearing. Assistant United States Attorney Kristin F. Scott handled the prosecution.
These cases were prosecuted as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative of the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorney’s 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 those who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.