Foster Parent Sentenced to 170 Years for Child Exploitation
November 25, 2022 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Sex Crimes Social Share
A Sanford man has just been sentenced to 170 years in prison for secretly recording and abusing his foster children. An investigation was led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Sanford Police Department, and the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office.
We will provide information from the case, along with information on child pornography charges in Florida.
What was the Case?
Justin Dwayne Johnson Sr., 48, was arrested after Child Protection Services opened an investigation in January 2022. According to the FBI, Johnson allegedly confided in an acquaintance that he contained cameras in his foster home where he exploited at least 18 children.
During the federal investigation, authorities seized several devices that belonged to Johnson. The defendant’s cellphone allegedly contained numerous visual depictions of child sex abuse material (CSAM) which depicted young children. Other electronic devices confiscated by the FBI revealed more images and videos of CSAM as well.
Johnson allegedly disclosed to the same acquaintance that he used the cameras in his home to film the children in the nude. There were also videos of Johnson touching the child victims. The forensic examination of Johnson’s devices helped authorities uncover the various child sex abuse material depicting young children.
Johnson was charged with four counts of production of child sexual abuse material, one count of production and attempted production of child sexual abuse material, and one count of possession of child sex abuse material. Johnson pleaded guilty to the charges in July.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of Florida, Johnson’s sentencing took place on November 17th, 2022. U.S. District Judge Wendy W. Berger sentenced Johnson to 170 years in federal prison.
U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg gave the following statement regarding the case:
“Protecting children from sexual abuse and exploitation is one of the highest priorities of my office. This defendant victimized children who were especially vulnerable because they needed the protection of the foster care system. I am proud of the outstanding work by our local and federal law enforcement partners and my office that brought this predator to justice.”
“Instead of offering a haven for foster children, this predator betrayed the children with a home of horrific abuse,” said Tampa’s FBI Special Agent in Charge, David Walker. “The FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force is committed to identifying, locating, and recovering the innocent victims of sexual abuse and ensuring their abusers are brought to justice.”
Sanford Police Department Chief Cecil Smith explained, “Johnson’s crimes are particularly disturbing, in that he was in a position that is expected to provide protection and care to already vulnerable children, and he exploited that role and further victimized these young children.”
“As you can imagine, investigations of this nature can present overwhelming challenges,” said Dennis M. Lemma, Seminole County Sheriff. “However, the dedication of our teams, their diligence, and the collaborative efforts of the law enforcement professionals assigned to this case resulted in a successful prosecution and a sentence that sends a strong message that there are severe consequences for those who prey upon and exploit the most precious members of our community.”
Florida’s Definition of Child Pornography
Under Florida Statute section 847.001(3), the term “child pornography” is defined as:
- Any image depicting a minor engaged in sexual conduct; or
- Any image that has been created, altered, adapted, or modified by electronic, mechanical, or other means to portray an identifiable minor engaged in sexual conduct.
Florida Statute section 847.0137 explains that in order for the prosecution to convict a defendant of transmitting or distributing child pornography, they must prove the following beyond reasonable doubt:
- The defendant produced, directed, advertised, or distributed images or visual depictions of a minor under the age of 18 in a sexual conduct or sexual activities; and
- The defendant had an understanding of what the images or visual depictions contained and continued to distribute or transmit it/them.
Penalties for Producing/Possessing CSAM
Florida Statute sections 847.0135, 847.0138, and 827.071 explain that it is unlawful for any individual to transmit, distribute, possess, or manufacture child pornography. By violating these laws, an individual can be charged with a third-degree felony in Florida. A third-degree felony has a penalty of up to a $5,000 fine and up to five years in prison.
In addition, if the defendant in question has any allegations of viewing or downloading any child pornography image(s) onto their computer, they could face federal charges against them.
The severity of the charges is more severe for an individual who has allegedly shared the child pornography image(s) with another person. Under Florida law, sharing an image defined as child pornography can result in a second-degree felony charge. A second-degree felony charge has a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and up to fifteen years in prison.
The most severe penalties can arise if the defendant is accused of promoting or producing child pornography. Producing or promoting content defined as child pornography can result in a first-degree felony in Florida. A first-degree felony in Florida has a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison. In Florida, this type of charge can carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 5-13 years.
The charges and penalties for child pornography offenses carry life-altering consequences. One important thing to note is that a person can be charged for each piece of evidence/CSAM, resulting in individual charges.
In addition, a person convicted of a second or subsequent child pornography offense can carry an additional 40 years in federal prison for each case. Realizing just how harsh child pornography penalties are in the state of Florida highlights the importance of top-quality criminal defense.
The best way to build a strong defense for a sex crimes case is to work with a skilled defense attorney in your area.
Finding a Defense Attorney in Florida
If you or someone you love has been accused of a crime involving child pornography, it is imperative that you seek out legal guidance. The state of Florida prosecutes cases involving CSAM vigorously, trying to fully enforce the penalties of the law. Sex offenses involving children can be tried at the state or federal level, which can also impact the penalties.
After a federal sex crime conviction, there are much heavier fines and mandatory sentences. A person convicted of a sex crime involving children will also be required to register with the National Sex Offender Registry. Considering the life-altering implications that can come with child pornography accusations, it is in your best interest to work with an experienced sex crime defense attorney.
Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have years of experience working with clients across the state of Florida. We’ll work with you, standing in your corner to fight for your freedom. Contact us today for a free consultation at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.
Written by Karissa Key