Home Atlanta Press Releases 2012 Sex Offender Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison for Distribution of Child Pornography

Sex Offender Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison for Distribution of Child Pornography
Mark Twain Heaton, III, a Previously Convicted Sex Offender, Repeatedly Distributed Child Pornography to Law Enforcement Across the Country

U.S. Attorney’s Office September 06, 2012
  • Northern District of Georgia (404) 581-6000

ATLANTA—A previously convicted sex offender who distributed graphic images of child pornography over the Internet was sentenced today by United States District Court Judge Willis B. Hunt, Jr. to 15 years in prison. Mark Twain Heaton, III, 40, of Roswell, Georgia, pleaded guilty to those charges on March 29, 2012.

“The distribution of images and videos portraying the sexual abuse of young children is a heinous crime,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “The offense is made that much more egregious by the fact that the defendant has been convicted previously of a child molestation offense. We will continue to identify and prosecute the most serious offenders who victimize children.”

Rick Maxwell, Acting Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated: “This defendant, being an aggressive distributor of child pornography and having a past record of such behavior, quickly became a priority for the FBI’s Innocent Images Task Force investigators. Working with our established law enforcement partners, a strong criminal case was built against Mr. Heaton, resulting in today’s lengthy sentence that will, thankfully, remove him as a threat to our community’s children.”

GBI Director Vernon M. Keenan said, “This proactive local, state, and federal probe represents law enforcement’s resolve to seek out and identify those involved in distributing child porn over the Internet.”

Heaton was sentenced to 15 years in prison, to be followed by 15 years of supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system. Heaton was convicted of the charge on March 29, 2012, upon his plea of guilty.

According to United States Attorney Yates and the information presented in court: During an undercover child pornography investigation in December 2011, an FBI special agent made contact with Heaton using a publicly available peer-to-peer network. During that session, Heaton made available to the FBI agent numerous images of child pornography, which the FBI agent downloaded to his computer. Between December 2011 and January 2012, several other undercover FBI agents around the country downloaded child pornography from Heaton. Similarly, a detective with the Liberty County, Georgia Sheriff’s Office made contact with Heaton. During those contacts, Heaton again made available images of child pornography, which the detective was able to download. In a subsequent search of Heaton’s home, law enforcement recovered Heaton’s computer, which contained additional images of child pornography, including images of very young children being sexually assaulted.

This case was investigated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and FBI’s Safe Child Task Force, which includes the Roswell Police Department.

This case is being 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 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, 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.

Assistant United States Attorneys Laurel Boatright and Jill E. Steinberg prosecuted the case.