Receiving, distributing child pornography sends Great Falls man to prison

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GREAT FALLS , MONTANA — A Great Falls man who admitted downloading and sharing child pornography with his cell phone was sentenced today to eight years and six months in prison and to five years of supervised release, Acting U.S. Attorney Leif Johnson said.

Derek Wallace Johnson, 41, pleaded guilty on Sept. 23, 2020 to distribution of child pornography and receipt of child pornography.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided. Chief Judge Morris ordered Johnson to pay $12,000 restitution and continued Johnson’s detention.

The prosecution said in court documents that in October 2019, Homeland Security Investigations in Great Falls received information that a suspect had uploaded possible child pornography in April 2019. An investigation determined that the uploaded image depicted a child engaged in sexually explicit conduct and led to Johnson as the suspect. Investigators served a search warrant on Johnson’s residence. Johnson, who was present for the search, told officers he had lost his cell phone a few days earlier, but an agent found it hidden between the box spring and mattress in Johnson’s bedroom.


After initially being untruthful, Johnson admitted he had participated in online activity involving child pornography and admitted to hiding his phone. He also said he had about 1,000 videos and images of child pornography in an encrypted app on his phone. Johnson told officers he downloaded child pornography in Kik chat rooms and shared files with others seeking images in chat rooms.

Agents searched Johnson’s phone and determined it contained almost 2,700 image files and more than 500 video files of child pornography. Johnson distributed child pornography in April 2019 and had downloaded or received child pornography from December 2016 to November 2019.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Cyndee Peterson prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the Montana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, Homeland Security Investigations and the Great Falls Police Department.

This case was initiated under the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood initiative, which was launched in 2006 to combat the proliferation of technology-facilitated crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children. Through a network of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and advocacy organizations, Project Safe Childhood attempts to protect children by investigating and prosecuting offenders involved in child sexual exploitation. It is implemented through partnerships including the Montana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The ICAC Task Force Program was created to assist state and local law enforcement agencies by enhancing their investigative response to technology facilitated crimes against children.

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