A 72-year-old Port St. Joe man is headed to 25 years in federal prison following his conviction for producing and possessing child pornography.
Downs was convicted by a federal jury in Pensacola last November, after jurors over a three-day trial found him guilty of one count each of producing child pornography and possessing child pornography.
Evidence showed that in Nov. 2014, Downs coerced a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing the pornography. In April 2018, he was found in possession of material containing child pornography.
Lawrence Keefe, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Florida, announced the sentence Friday. Assistant United States Attorneys Michelle Spaven and Aine Ahmed prosecuted the case.
Downs’ prison sentence will be followed by 10 years of supervised release. He will also be required to register as a sex offender and will be subject to all sex offender conditions.
“Child pornography is a vile act that can ruin the lives of its innocent victims, and we will do everything possible to put an end to it by investigating and prosecuting the depraved individuals who prey on children in this way,” Keefe said. “The exceptional work of our local, state, and federal law enforcement partners has ensured that this individual will not be able to exploit young innocents again.”
According to an April 19, 2018 news release from the Gulf County Sheriff’s Office, Downs’ arrest came after a month-long investigation, after Investigator L. Dickey received information regarding an alleged sexual assault of a victim under age 18, and a 2014 incident involving a victim under age 18 at the time.
Following the investigation, a warrant for Downs’ arrest was obtained for using a computer to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice a child. The sheriff’s office reported Downs used Facebook Messenger to receive and solicit inappropriate photographs of the victim personally known by him.
Investigators searched Downs’ residence on St. Joe Beach, and took him into custody. With the assistance of special agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and an analyst from the FDLE Computer Crime Center, a preview of Downs’ computer at the scene revealed photographs he took in Nov. 2014 of the second victim in the case, pictures that corroborated information provided by the victim.
The discovery of the photographs led to additional charges of sexual battery on a person age 12 or older, lewd or lascivious molestation of a victim age 12 or older, and 11 counts of possession of child pornography. Those charges did not figure into last week’s convictions.
“We are proud of the successful conclusion of this case,” said Gulf County Sheriff Mike Harrison. “I hope this sentencing sends a strong message to those who choose to exploit the young and innocent.”
“We are appreciative of the dedication and work of our agents and our partners in Homeland Security Investigations and Gulf County Sheriff’s Office that led to the apprehension of this individual, and grateful for the prosecutorial action of the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” said Jack Massey, Special Agent in Charge, FDLE Pensacola Regional Operations Center. “The safety of our citizens is always a priority of FDLE.”
“The law enforcement team of HSI, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Gulf County Sheriff’s Office worked together to bring this child predator to justice,” said HSI Tampa Assistant Special Agent in Charge Micah McCombs.
The United States Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Florida is one of 94 offices that serve as the nation’s principal litigators under the direction of the Attorney General. To access public court documents online, please visit the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida website.
This article originally appeared on The Star: PSJ man given 25 years for child pornography