U.S. Attorney's Office
District of Columbia
(202) 252-6933
September 9, 2015

Virginia Man Pleads Guilty to Possession of Child Pornography

WASHINGTON—Donald A. Essex, 68, of Alexandria, Va., pled guilty today to a charge of possession of child pornography, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Vincent H. Cohen, Jr., Paul M. Abbate, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and Cathy L. Lanier, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).

Essex pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The charge carries a statutory maximum of 10 years in prison as well as potential financial penalties. The Honorable Senior Judge Paul L. Friedman scheduled sentencing for Dec. 1, 2015. Essex has been in custody since his arrest on May 15, 2015.

According to the government’s evidence, on May 14, 2015, Essex contacted an undercover officer with the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force, through a social network site. He continued this conversation via instant messaging with the undercover officer, who purported to be the father of an under-aged girl. Essex then began sending approximately a dozen images of child pornography. He also expressed interest in engaging in sexual acts with the under-aged girl. Law enforcement soon identified the defendant and obtained arrest and search warrants.

In a search of Essex’s home at the time of his arrest on May 15, 2015, law enforcement recovered a computer, drives, and other devices. A forensic examination of those devices led to the discovery of images and videos depicting child pornography. Essex pled guilty to knowingly possessing more than 600 images of child pornography.

This case was brought as part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood initiative and investigated by the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force, which includes members of the FBI’s Washington Field Office and MPD. In February 2006, the Attorney General created 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.

In announcing the plea, Acting U.S. Attorney Cohen, Assistant Director in Charge Abbate, and Chief Lanier praised the work of the MPD Detectives and Special Agents of the FBI Child Exploitation Task Force. They also expressed appreciation for the assistance provided by the Fairfax County, Va., Police Department. Finally, they acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialist Joyce Arthur and Assistant Andrea L. Hertzfeld, who is prosecuting the matter.

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