Wednesday, September 4, 2013

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Former Teacher Pleads Guilty in Federal Child Pornography Case Following International Probe Conducted by the State and other Authorities

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas issued the following news release on Sept. 3, 2013:

Former Kindergarten Teacher Convicted of Sexually Exploiting Children

HOUSTON - Stephen Wayne Sudduth, 38, of Sealy, has entered a plea of guilty to two counts of production of child pornography, United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson announced today.

The charges against Sudduth arose as a result of an international investigation conducted by members of the Houston office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the office of the Caribbean Attache for Homeland Security, the Texas Attorney General’s Cyber Crimes Unit, the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Curacao, a special task force unit in Curacao comprised of Dutch and local law enforcement officers and the equivalent of the juvenile sex crimes unit of the Curacao Police Corps.

The investigation began in 2009 when the Texas Attorney General’s Office received a tip concerning Sudduth. A state search warrant for Sudduth’s residence in Sealy was secured and later executed on July 14, 2009. At that time, officers seized a laptop computer and two external hard drives which all were found to contain child pornography.

During the review of the images, officers observed images that contained Sudduth and images that appeared to have been taken in a classroom. They were able to confirm the classroom was at a school in Curacao and that Sudduth taught kindergarten at that school. Houston HSI agents were then contacted to handle the international aspect of the investigation.

Still images of young girls that constituted child pornography were located and found to have been taken with a digital camera.

In December 2009 and May 2010, HSI agents and a forensic child interviewer traveled to Curacao and were able to identify and interview the children depicted in the images.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas, who accepted the guilty plea, has set sentencing for Nov. 22, 2013, at which time he faces a sentence of at least 15 and up to 30 years in federal prison as well as a possible maximum fine of $250,000. Upon completion of any prison term imposed, Sudduth also faces a maximum of life on supervised release during which the court can impose a number of special conditions designed to protect children and prohibit the use of the Internet.

Sudduth has been in custody where he will remain pending his sentencing hearing.

This case, prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Robert Stabe, was 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.usdoj.gov/psc. For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab "resources."