JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA – United States District Judge Marcia Morales Howard has sentenced Earl Frederic Owens (33, Jacksonville) to eight years and nine months in federal prison for distributing child sex abuse images using the Kik social media application. Owens was also ordered to serve a 10-year term of supervised release, register as a sex offender, and pay $3,000 in restitution to a child victim. Owens has been in custody since his arrest on November 19, 2019.
Owens had pleaded guilty on November 17, 2020.
According to evidence and court documents, the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Cyber Crimes Center received a report from Kik, a social messaging app, that several different user accounts had uploaded images depicting the sexual exploitation of children using the Kik app. Further investigation revealed that these materials were distributed online from an apartment in Jacksonville, where Owens lived.
On November 19, 2019, HSI agents executed a search warrant at Owens’s apartment. During an interview with agents, Owens admitted that he uses the Kik app to chat with strangers about his “urges,” he has an interest in “pedophilia,” and that he traded child sex abuse materials with others online using the Kik app. A forensic examination of Owens’s computer devices revealed that Owens had collected at least 2,149 images and 23 videos depicting young children being sexually abused. Online chat conversations were recovered from Owens’s smart phone showing that he had offered to pay an individual for nude pictures of underage girls. Several stories authored by Owens were recovered in which he had described, in graphic detail, the sexual assault and molestation of young children.
“The exploitation of innocent children has no place in our communities and we will vigorously pursue prosecution of anyone involved in the production, distribution, or possession of child pornography to the fullest extent of the law,” said HSI Jacksonville Assistant Special Agent in Charge K. Jim Phillips. “This case highlights how important the law enforcement partnerships between HSI Jacksonville, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, and the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office are in order to protect our children.”
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, and the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney D. Rodney Brown.
It is another case brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.
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