SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A Sacramento man was sentenced to more than 24 years in prison on Wednesday on child pornography convictions, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

On May 1, 2012, a federal jury convicted James E. Johnston, 71, of conspiring to produce child pornography, two counts of receiving child pornography, possession of child pornography, and traveling in foreign commerce with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. Johnston has been in custody since his conviction.

Noting that Johnston traveled abroad numerous times with the intent to sexually exploit young children, Chief U.S District Judge Morrison C. England Jr. said, “The next time someone decides that they are going to engage in [international sex trafficking], I hope the next person thinks about it a little bit more because of the sentence I [gave] today.”

According to testimony presented at trial, in February 2006, Johnston used his credit card to purchase a 20-day subscription to a website offering images and videos of child pornography to its customers. The website informed customers that its content was illegal and instructed them to say that their credit card had been stolen if they were contacted by law enforcement. That defense was offered by Johnston during trial.

During the time of his subscription, Johnston downloaded about 300 videos of child pornography, some of which showed scenes of infants and toddlers being sexually molested.

Shortly thereafter, according to evidence presented at trial, Johnston began an online relationship through Yahoo Messenger with a woman from Manila, Philippines. During the course of this relationship, Johnston engaged in extensive discussion about acquiring photographs of underage girls that he would like to have sex with, and his future plans to travel to the Philippines in order to have sex with minors.

On Aug. 12, 2006, Johnston told the woman that he would be arriving in Manila on Sept. 14 and staying at the Mandarin Oriental. He then went on to instruct her that she should “bring [him] young girls, two of them,” and asked her to send pictures of “young ones for [him] to pick from.”

FAA flight records confirmed that Johnston left San Francisco for Hong Kong on Aug. 30, 2006. Testimony from a defense witness showed that as part of this trip, Johnston had made plans to fly to the Philippines. Those plans changed after Department of Homeland Security agents executed a search warrant at Johnston’s residence on Sept. 6, 2006, looking for evidence of his illegal purchase of child pornography in February.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

“This sentence should serve as a sobering warning for those who mistakenly believe they can evade justice by sexually exploiting children outside this country,” said Daniel Lane, assistant special agent in charge of HSI Sacramento. “There can be no place for the abuse of foreign children by our citizens. Homeland Security Investigations will seek to vindicate the rights of those victims no matter how destitute they are or how far they live from our shores.”


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