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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of North Carolina

Friday, June 3, 2016

Whittier, N.C. Man Sentenced To More Than 12 Years In Prison On Child Pornography Charges

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger sentenced today John Michael Awtrey, 56, of Whittier, N.C., to 150 months in prison on child pornography charges, announced Jill Westmoreland Rose, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Awtrey was also sentenced to a lifetime of supervised release and was ordered to register as a sex offender.

U.S. Attorney Rose is joined in making today’s announcement by Nick Annan, Special Agent in Charge of ICE/Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Georgia and the Carolinas, Sheriff Curtis A. Cochran of the Swain County Sheriff’s Office and Sheriff Derrick Palmer of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.

According to filed documents and statements made in court, on or about February 24, 2013, law enforcement became aware that an individual, later identified as Awtrey, was accessing child pornography online using the Internet profile of “iamnice.”  Law enforcement executed a search warrant at Awtrey’s residence and seized approximately one dozen computers and various electronic devises and storage media.  According to court records, forensic analysis of the seized devices and equipment revealed that Awtrey possessed hundreds of thousands of images and videos involving minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct, including material involving prepubescent minors and sadistic and masochistic conduct.  Court records indicate that Awtrey used the Internet to send some of those images to other individuals and to receive child pornography.

In August 2015, following a bench trial, Judge Reidinger found Awtrey guilty of one count of distribution, one count of receipt and one count of possession of child pornography.

Awtrey is currently in custody and will be transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility.  Federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.

The investigation was handled by HIS, the Swain County Sheriff’s Office and the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville prosecuted the case.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in 2006 by the Department of Justice, aimed at combating the growing online sexual exploitation of children.  By combining resources, federal, state and local agencies are better able to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue those victims.  For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit

Updated June 3, 2016