October 20, 2015

Mark Douglas Helton Pleads Guilty Child Pornography Offenses

KNOXVILLE, TN—On Oct. 20, 2015, Mark Douglas Helton, 61, of Maryville, Tenn., pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, to knowingly distributing and receiving child pornography. Sentencing has been set for 2:00 p.m., March 9, 2016.

Helton faces a maximum of up to life in prison, as well as supervised release following incarceration, restitution, and fines. Pursuant to his plea agreement, Helton admitted to distributing and receiving child pornography via the Internet with peer-to-peer computer software. Helton also admitted to possessing in excess of 600 images of child pornography, including images of sadistic or masochistic conduct or other depictions of violence involving minors.

This investigation was conducted by the Knoxville Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Morris represented the United States.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, 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 to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.