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Press Release

Professional Photographer Charged with Possessing Child Pornography

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Vermont
The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont announced today that a federal grand jury returned an indictment charging John Penwarden, a professional photographer of Orwell, Vermont, with Possession of Child Pornography, including at least one depiction involving a prepubescent child or a child not yet twelve years old. The defendant appeared today in District Court in Burlington before Magistrate Judge John M. Conroy and entered a plea of not guilty to the sole count of the indictment. Federal authorities adopted the case from the state, where multiple charges had been pending against the defendant, including the Use of a Child in a Sexual Performance, Possession of Child Pornography, Aggravated Sexual Assault, and Possession of Marijuana. According to the Addison County affidavit submitted on May 8, 2015, law enforcement executed a search warrant on the defendant’s home in December 2014, following reports by a then-thirteen year old victim that the defendant had committed repeated sexual contact offenses with her beginning when she was eight or nine years old, including taking pornographic pictures of the victim. According to the same affidavit, the search warrant was followed by a forensic analysis of the defendant’s computer and electronic hardware. In sum, the report indicated that the state examiners discovered approximately 76 sexually explicit images of both male and female children, ranging in age from toddler to early teen. Of those 76 images, approximately 50 appeared to be sexually explicit depictions of the reporting victim. If convicted, Penwarden faces up to twenty years of imprisonment. The actual sentence, however, would be determined by the Court with guidance from the advisory Federal Sentencing Guidelines. The case was assigned to United States District Court Judge Geoffrey W. Crawford in Rutland, Vermont. The United States Attorney emphasizes that the charges in the indictment are merely accusations and that the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until he is proven guilty. The United States is represented in this matter by Assistant U.S. Attorney Abigail Averbach. John Penwarden is represented by Jordana Levine, Esq. Homeland Security Investigations, the investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, has agreed to assist the Vermont State Police and spearhead further investigation.
Updated June 14, 2016

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