by Sam Levin
Christopher Horton, a twenty-year-old Belleville martial-arts instructor, is accused of sexually exploiting three minors -- ages six, eight and ten -- and filming the abuse. A new complaint against Horton says that he confessed to the sexual assault and attempted to get a fourth minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct, with the intention of filming it.
And the abuse extended over a long period of time, according to the accusations against the Highland resident, who is facing exploitation, child pornography and criminal sexual-abuse charges.
Between May of 2012 and February 11 of this year, he allegedly recorded videos of the exploitation.
He was first charged last month in federal court after officials announced the was arrested and was being held without bond.
A federal trial date hasn't yet been set, but if convicted of sexual exploitation of a minor, Horton faces a term of imprisonment of at least fifteen years, a fine of up to [corrected] $250,000 and a term of supervised release of at least five years and possible lifetime supervision.
This week, he is facing additional charges with a grand jury indictment announced yesterday. These charges include five counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of attempted sexual exploitation of a minor.
"The facts alleged in the criminal complaint are shocking and horrific," United States Attorney Stephen Wigginton said in a statement when the charges were first announced in February. "I will use all of my resources to ensure that these charges are proven beyond a reasonable doubt so that this person is placed where he can never prey upon our children again."
A press release sent out yesterday notes that the charges were brought as part of a federal initiative called Project Safe Childhood, launched in 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse.
Here's the full news alert.
US ATTORNEY WIGGINTON ANNOUNCES SIX-COUNT INDICTMENT AGAINST BELLEVILLE MARTIAL ARTS INSTRUCTOR FOR SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF A MINOR
Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced today that a United States Grand Jury has returned a six-count indictment against Belleville martial arts instructor, Christopher M. Horton, 20, of Highland, Illinois, charging him with five counts of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor and one count of Attempt Sexual Exploitation of a Minor. The alleged violations took place between on or about May 1, 2012 and February 11, 2013, in Madison and St. Clair Counties. Horton had been charged in a two-count federal Criminal Complaint for Sexual Exploitation of a Minor on February 15, 2013, as part of a joint investigation and prosecution undertaken by the United States Attorney's Office, the St. Clair County State's Attorney's Office, and the Madison County State's Attorney's Office. The Court has ordered that Horton be held without bond pending trial.
The offenses charged in the indictment allege that, between on or about May 1, 2012 and February 11, 2013, Horton video recorded himself engaged in sexual activity with three minors and attempted to engage a fourth minor in sexually explicit conduct for the purposes of producing a recording of the conduct.
A federal trial date has not yet been set. If convicted of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor, Horton faces a term of imprisonment of not less than 15 years but not more than 30 years in prison on each count, a fine up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of not less than 5 years, up to and including, a lifetime of supervision once he is released.
An indictment is a formal charge against a defendant that is comprised of the essential facts constituting the offense charged. Under the law, a defendant is presumed to be innocent of a charge until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys' 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.usdoj.gov/psc. For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab "resources."
The case was investigated by the Madison County Sheriff's Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Metro East Cyber Crimes and Analysis Task Force, the Highland, Illinois Police Department and the Belleville, Illinois Police Department. The case is assigned to Assistant United States Attorneys Ali Summers.