Saxtons River Teacher Sentenced to Prison for Child Exploitation Offenses
The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont stated that Brant Nelson, 49, of Saxtons River, Vermont, was sentenced on September 15, 2014, in United States District Court in Burlington, Vermont, to serve 360-months (30 years) imprisonment and a lifetime period of supervised release following his conviction on six counts of production of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2251, one count of possession of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B), one count of interstate travel to engage in sexual act with a minor, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2241(c), and one count of interstate transportation of a minor for sexual activity, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2423(a). Chief Judge Christina Reiss also ordered Nelson to pay a $900 special assessment.
According to court records and proceedings, in early January 2012, Nelson was living in Saxtons River, Vermont when the Vermont State Police (VSP) received a report that he possibly had images of child pornography on his computer and that he had a sexual interest in very young girls. VSP troopers interviewed Nelson, who confirmed that he had child pornography on his computer at his residence. Nelson added that he encrypted the computer, but he gave the troopers consent to take his computer and various passwords to defeat the encryption. The troopers retrieved Nelson=s computer and delivered it to a forensic examiner with the Vermont Internet Crimes against Children (ICAC) Task Force. The troopers gave Nelson a citation to appear in court at a later date.
Within days thereafter, Nelson went to a public computer and caused e-mail accounts he had used to be closed and the contents deleted. Nelson also warned other offenders with whom he had been sharing images of child pornography to destroy their computers.
Nelson was interviewed by a VSP detective and a Special Agent with the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), on January 20, 2012. Nelson admitted to having child pornography on his computer, to engaging in sexual contact with a young girl, to taking pornographic pictures of his child victims and posting them to the Internet, to sharing with other pedophiles images of child pornography that he had produced, and to accessing a website on the Internet where pedophiles congregate. Nelson’s admissions were confirmed by the forensic exam of his computer, where images of child pornography that he produced and possessed were found. Nelson was taken into federal custody. On February 2, 2012, he was indicted on one count of production of child pornography. The production of child pornography count carries a 15-year mandatory minimum sentence, with a 30-year statutory maximum sentence.
Through an unrelated investigation conducted by the FBI in New York State, images of child pornography that depicted Nelson and his child victims were found in the collection of another offender. On April 12, 2012, a grand jury returned a First Superseding Indictment against Nelson, which charged him with a total of six counts of production of child pornography, and one count of possession of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B).
On June 17, 2013, Nelson pleaded guilty to all counts of the First Superseding Indictment.
The investigation into Nelson’s activities continued and resulted in his guilty plea to a two-count Information on March 24, 2014. The Information charged him with interstate travel to engage in a sexual act with a minor (Count One), and one count of interstate transportation of a minor for sexual activity (Count Two). Count One subjected Nelson to a 30-year mandatory minimum sentence, with a statutory maximum sentence of life. Count Two subjected Nelson to a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence, with a statutory maximum sentence of life. The facts which supported Nelson’s guilty plea to the two charges in the Information are the following:
In approximately 2008, Nelson began accessing a website on the Internet where adults who have a sexual interest in little girls congregate. While using this website, Nelson met and began communicating with a man who lived in the state of New York (“Offender #1”). Nelson and Offender #1 communicated via e-mail about their shared sexual interest in little girls and their shared interest in child pornography. Nelson also traveled to New York to visit Offender #1. In approximately March 2010, Nelson took Minor A and Minor B to New York City so they could meet Offender #1. At the time of this trip, Nelson was, had been, and would continue to engage in regular sexual activity with both Minor A and Minor B. Nelson knew that Minor A and Minor B were both under the age of 12 years old in 2010.
In approximately July 2010, Nelson took Minor A and Minor B from Vermont to New York City to see Offender #1 again. While traveling to New York City, Nelson told Minor A that Offender #1 wanted to have sexual contact with Minor A. While in New York City, Offender #1 engaged in sexual activity with Minor A, and Nelson engaged in sexual activity with Minor B.
In approximately November 2010, Nelson took Minor A and Minor B from Vermont to New York City, New York to see Offender #1 again. Prior to the trip, Nelson discussed with Minor A and Minor B that Offender #1 wanted to engage in sexual activity with both of them. Nelson also intended to engage in sexual activity with Minor A and/or Minor B during this trip. Nelson and Offender #1 both engaged in sexual activity with Minor A and Minor B while in New York City.
In sentencing Nelson, Judge Reiss rejected the government’s request that he receive a lifetime term of imprisonment, called for under the advisory federal sentencing guidelines, and sentenced him instead to 30-years’ imprisonment, the statutory mandatory minimum sentence. At the sentencing hearing, Judge Reiss said that Nelson’s criminal conduct was the worst she had ever seen in her years as a state and federal judge.
United States Attorney Coffin said: “Nelson’s conduct was horrific and among the worst ever prosecuted by this Office. We are grateful for the tremendous investigative support provided to us by the Vermont State Police, the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Vermont Internet Crimes against Children Task. The protection of children is a priority of this Office and we will prosecute offenders such as Nelson to the fullest extent of the law.”
HSI Special Agent in Charge Bruce Foucart said: “Child sexual exploitation crimes are appalling and made even more disturbing when they are carried out by individuals in positions of trust who have ready access to innocent children. The aggressive investigation and ultimate prosecution of those engaged in this type of depraved activity remains among our highest priorities at HSI.”
The prosecution of Nelson was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara A. Masterson. Nelson was represented by Assistant Federal Public Defender David L. McColgin.
U.S. Attorney Coffin noted that this prosecution is part of the U.S. Department of Justice=s Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. Attorney=s Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.