Special to the Enterprise
Stephen A. Keating, 52, of Jesup pleaded guilty Tuesday before Chief United States District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood to three counts of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor in relation to his production of numerous images of child pornography, and one count of Distribution of Child Pornography.
Evidence presented at the guilty plea hearing showed that on numerous occasions in 2010 and 2011, Keating sexually molested three minor children in order to create pictures and videos of that conduct. Keating then distributed a number of the images, which were discovered in September 2012 during the arrest of a sex offender in Denmark. The charges against Keating arose from an investigation led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), with assistance from INTERPOL, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Office of Field Operations in Savannah, CBP Air and Marine Operations in Jacksonville, Fla., the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office.
“No child should be subjected to sexual abuse and, certainly, no child should have to live with the knowledge that the abuse was captured on film for redistribution to other like-minded predators. This defendant exploited the most vulnerable members of our society, our children. Swift, aggressive prosecution of child predators is the highest priority for the Department of Justice and this United States Attorney’s Office, ”United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver said.
“To victimize the innocent in the manner that this child predator has pleaded guilty to is one of the most revolting crimes in our society,” said Brock D. Nicholson, special agent in charge of ICE Homeland Security Investigations in Atlanta. “HSI special agents will not rest until each and every child victim of sexual exploitation is rescued and defendants like Keating are behind bars.”
Each count of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor to which Keating pleaded guilty carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. Keating also faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for Distribution of Child Pornography. If released from prison, Keating will be required to register as a sex offender. The date for Keating’s sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, which is a nationwide U.S. Department of Justice initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ 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. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer G. Solari. For additional information, please contact First Assistant United States Attorney James D. Durham at (912) 341-7842.