Note: This story was last updated at 10:38 p.m.
An Oak Ridge man was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison on Wednesday for distributing and possessing child pornography, authorities said.
James Edward Hiatt, 33, was sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Varlan in U.S. District Court in Knoxville.
He had been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges of distributing and possessing child pornography on February 17, 2016.
A sentencing memorandum filed September 11, 2017, said seized computer equipment found that Hiatt had about 2,900 digital images of child pornography and 1,400 digital videos. The child pornography included prepubescent minors engaged in sexually explicit activity, including “disturbing depictions of sadistic conduct, bondage, and bestiality involving very young children,” the sentencing memorandum said.
Hiatt consented to be interviewed during a search and admitted to knowingly downloading child pornography, the sentencing memorandum said.
It said undercover law enforcement officers used peer-to-peer file sharing software to access and download multiple files saved on an Internet Protocol, or IP, address later found to be assigned to Hiatt’s home. The sexually explicit files were particularly graphic, including the rapes of toddlers, the sentencing memorandum said.
The indictiment listed incidents on December 2, 2015; January 5, 2016; and January 19, 2016.
The sentencing memorandum said the massive collection of child pornography was accessible for downloading by others using peer-to-peer file sharing software.
Hiatt’s substantial long-term involvement in obtaining and viewing child pornography, especially of very young children, indicates serious offending conduct, the memorandum said.
Hiatt pleaded guilty in May 2017 to the federal charges stemming from his use of peer-to-peer file sharing software to obtain child pornography and make child pornography available for others to download via the Internet, according to a Wednesday press release from U.S. Attorney J. Douglas Overbey in the Eastern District of Tennessee. A search of Hiatt’s home resulted in the seizure of the evidence confirming that he had been distributing child pornography that he had accessed, downloaded, and stored on his computer, the press release said.
After he is released from prison, Hiatt will be supervised by the U.S. Probation Office for 14 years, and he will be required to register with the sex offender registry in any state where he lives, works, or attends school, the press release said.
The United States had requested a sentence of 188-235 months (about 15.7 years to 19.6 years), to be followed by 25 years of supervised release. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Morris, who represented the United States in court proceedings, said the sentence should reflect the seriousness of the offense, afford adequate deterrence, and protect the public from further crimes, among other considerations.
“Child pornography destroys the lives of children, leading to a lifetime of internal torment, shame, and psychological devastation,” the sentencing memorandum said. “Those who collect pornographic images of children and distribute them to others allow the market for child pornography to exist and flourish and (fuel) the appetite for new abuses of children. Those children who were initially abused in the production of the pornographic materials face ongoing exploitation as images of their abuse and suffering are placed in infinite, indefinite circulation from one individual to another around the world via the Internet. If no market for child pornography existed, the children would not be exploited in this manner.”
Hiatt, who has an associate’s degree in computer science and employment-related certificates, did not have a previous criminal history as a civilian. But the United States had received information that indicated that, while serving in the U.S. Army in 2009, Hiatt had been cited for drunk and disorderly and communicating a threat with his wife, according to the sentencing memorandum.
The investigation of this case was conducted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Knoxville Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the U.S. Department of Justice, the press release said. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, 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 to identify and rescue victims, the release said. Visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov for more information about Project Safe Childhood.
More information will be added as it becomes available.