Created Images Documenting His Sexual Abuse of Minors, and Posing as a Minor Online, Requested Minors to Create and Send Him Sexually Explicit Photos of Themselves Via Social Media
Greenbelt, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm sentenced Christopher Harris Speights, age 35, of Capitol Heights, Maryland, today to 35 years in prison, followed by lifetime supervised release for production of child pornography, and production and attempted production of child pornography.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Colonel William M. Pallozzi, Superintendent of the Maryland State Police; Acting Special Agent in Charge Cardell T. Morant of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh; Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela D. Alsobrooks; and Acting Worcester County State’s Attorney William H. McDermott.
According to his plea agreement, on December 13, 2016, the Maryland State Police Computer Crimes Unit received a referral from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and began an investigation into the production and possession of images depicting the sexual exploitation of minors associated with a specific IP address. Further investigation revealed that the sexually exploitive images were associated with Speights’ residence. On April 20, 2017, Maryland State Police (MSP) troopers and Homeland Security Investigations agents executed a search warrant at Speights’ residence.
During the execution of the search warrants at his home, Speights confirmed to law enforcement that he was a permanent substitute teacher, working full-time, at Bradbury Heights Elementary school, located in Capitol Heights, Prince George’s County, Maryland. Speights also confirmed that he coached boys youth basketball with a traveling team.
Speights admitted to possessing child pornography on the iPad recovered from his residence, and to surreptitiously filming some of the minors he coached while the minors were staying in North Carolina for a basketball team trip in March 2016. Speights placed his backpack in the hotel room’s bathroom, with his iPad video recording from a hole in the exterior mesh pocket of the backpack.
Speights also produced images documenting himself sexually exploiting three minor males. Speights produced two of the images on June 21, 2015, in Ocean City Maryland, which resulted in a state charge of sexual abuse of a minor in the Circuit Court of Worcester County. Speights produced another image on August 3, 2015, at his residence, and produced an additional image on December 14, 2015, while he was chaperoning a Bradbury Heights fifth grade class trip. Those images resulted in two charges of sexual abuse of a minor being filed against Speights in the Circuit Court of Prince George’s County. Judge Grimm ordered that Speights’ federal sentence will be served concurrent to any sentence imposed in his pending cases in Prince George’s and Worcester Counties.
MSP conducted a digital forensic analysis of the media and devices recovered from Speights’ home. Law enforcement determined that Speights adopted the online identities of fictitious minors, then solicited minor males and females online to produce images of themselves engaged in sexually explicit conduct, and transmit those images via social media. According to the plea agreement, Speights (using the assumed online identity of a minor) threatened minor boys on more than one occasion that if they did not comply with his demands to create and send images of themselves engaged in sexually explicit conduct, he would tell “Coach Speights” about the inappropriate online conversations. As a result of the investigation, law enforcement was able to positively identify over 20 minors from whom Speights requested images of sexually explicit conduct.
This case 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 Attorney’s 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. For more information about Internet safety education, please visit www.justice.gov/psc and click on the “Resources” tab on the left of the page.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the Maryland State Police, HSI Baltimore, the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, and the Worcester and Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Offices for their work in the investigation. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Timothy Hagan and Lindsay Kaplan, who prosecuted the federal case.
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