MT. WASHINGTON MAN SENTENCED TO 27 YEARS’ IMPRISONMENT FOR VIOLATING FEDERAL CHILD EXPLOITATION LAWS
Potter has prior federal child pornography conviction from 1999
LOUISVILLE, KY—United States District Judge John G. Heyburn, II, sentenced Michael Thomas Potter, Jr., age 40, of Mt. Washington, Kentucky, in Bullitt County, to 27 years’ imprisonment for four charges of violating federal child exploitation laws, Acting United States Attorney Candace G. Hill of the Western District of Kentucky announced today. Potter had previously pled guilty to receiving and possessing numerous images of child pornography as well as attempting to entice a minor to engage in sexual conduct punishable under law and attempted production of child pornography. Judge Heyburn also imposed a term of lifetime supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system.
According to court records, in May 2007, a minor female (“minor”), living in Mount Washington, Kentucky, met and began communicating with a person on MySpace. The minor communicated with a person identified as “Tasha Thomas,” who reported that she was a 14-year-old female. During the on-line communications, which occurred on several occasions, “Tasha” described engaging in sexual acts with her father and three other girls. Additionally, “Tasha” sent the minor a photograph of an underage girl, claiming that it was “Tasha.” The photograph showed a teenaged girl sitting on a stool next to a table in a sexually suggestive pose. The message accompanying the photograph was “send yours.”
“Tasha” invited the minor to meet her, engage in sexual conduct, and have her (Tasha’s) father photograph the activity. “Tasha” asked the minor if she “would do it with an older guy,” and told the minor that her (Tasha’s) father would be willing to engage in sexual activity with the minor. During the communications, “Tasha” gave the minor her address in Mt. Washington on Treva Court.
The minor’s father became aware of the on-line communications and contacted the Mount Washington Police. With the permission of the minor’s father, a police officer assumed the minor’s identity and engaged in on-line communications with “Tasha” on May 18, 2007. Law enforcement officials investigated the Treva Court address previously provided by “Tasha” during the on-line communications. The Kentucky State Police Sex Offender Registry revealed that a registered sex offender, Potter, lived at the address. A comparison of the sex offender’s photograph with photographs contained on “Tasha’s” MySpace page confirmed that it was the same person. Law enforcement officials identified the man as Michael Thomas Potter, Jr.
During the course of the on-line communications, the undercover officer—posing as the minor—agreed to meet “Tasha” at a nearby convenience store / gas station. Law enforcement officials set up surveillance at the location on May 18, 2007. Potter arrived at the location at the prearranged time. Law enforcement officials arrested him and searched his car incident to the arrest. When they searched the car, law enforcement officials found a digital camera (specifically, a Kodak Easy Share DX 7590 bearing serial number KCTD644306330).
A Mount Washington Police Detective prepared and presented an Affidavit for Search Warrant for Potter’s residence. A Bullitt County District Court Judge authorized issuance of the requested Search Warrant. Law enforcement officials executed the Search Warrant on May 18, 2007. Pursuant to the Search Warrant, officers seized a Dell Computer, eight photographs (8½ x 11 in size) photographs of two unknown females, a Kodak Easy Share CX 6445, 20 Maxell CDRW’s, 8 Sony HD micro floppy disks, 512 MB Dan Desk, ten computer diskettes, and a Kodak Easy Share diskette.
Law enforcement officials reviewed several of the computer diskettes. The diskettes contained images (both still and in video format) of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct, that is, child pornography. One disk contained approximately 223 still images, many of which depicted minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Additionally, two diskettes contained multiple video files containing child pornography.
A federal law enforcement official requested a Seizure Order and Search Warrant from the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky to obtain the materials previously seized from Potter by the Mt. Washington Police Department. The Court authorized the requests. A federal law enforcement official conducted a forensic examination of the computer seized from Potter’s residence. A review of the materials on the computer revealed the presence of numerous images of child pornography. Examination of the meta data from several images revealed that the images were acquired from the Internet in May 2007. The forensic examination revealed 257 still images and 37 movie files containing child pornography. The images depicted, among other things, vaginal and anal rape of very young children.
A review of the records for the United States District Court for the Western District of Kentucky revealed that a Judgment was entered on March 29, 1999, regarding Michael T. Potter. The Judgment indicated that on December 14, 1998, Potter pled guilty to six counts of interstate transportation by computer of visual depictions involving the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2). The district court imposed a sentence of 27 months’ imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release in the 1998 case.
Assistant United States Attorney Jo E. Lawless prosecuted the case. The United States Attorney’s Office worked closely with the Bullitt County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office throughout the investigation and prosecution of the case. The Mt. Washington Police Department initiated the investigation and the Federal Bureau of Investigation provided significant computer forensic assistance in the development of the case and prosecution.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys Offices, 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 identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov/.
Acting United States Attorney Hill praised the cooperative efforts of law enforcement demonstrated in response to this very serious case. Hill noted, “The cooperative spirit evidenced by investigators and prosecutors in the Potter case highlights the goals and purpose of Project Safe Childhood. Together, we brought the full weight of the criminal justice system to bear against a dangerous child sex offender. The Potter case exemplifies the positive impact of Project Safe Childhood in our efforts to protect the children in our communities.”
“25% of all sex offenders re-offend within 15 years”