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SACRAMENTO, CA—United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced that a federal grand jury returned a three-count indictment today charging Phillip J. Colwell, 52, of Sacramento, with producing child pornography, transmitting obscene matter to a minor, and using a cell phone to entice a minor to engage in unlawful sexual conduct.
This case is the product of a joint investigation by the FBI’s Sacramento-based Innocence Lost Task Force, the Sacramento Police Department, and the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office. Assistant United States Attorney Laurel D. White is prosecuting the case.
According to court documents filed in both state and federal court, it is alleged that in October 2011, Colwell engaged in a series of cell phone text conversations with a 14-year-old Sacramento boy identified as Victim 1, to whom he sent sexually explicit images and with whom he sought to engage in sexual conduct. Court documents also allege that Colwell encouraged Victim 1 to produce sexually explicit images of himself to send to Colwell. The indictment further alleges that in July 2011, Colwell produced sexually explicit images of a 16-year-old boy identified as Victim 2. Court documents allege that Colwell engaged in sex acts with Victim 2, and that he produced sexually explicit photos of the boy and uploaded them to a website for purposes of promoting the commercial sex trafficking of the boy.
Colwell has not yet been arraigned on the federal charges. He is in the Sacramento County Jail, awaiting resolution of similar state charges.
The statutory penalty for using a cell phone to entice a minor to engage in unlawful sexual conduct is a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison up to life in prison. Producing child pornography carries a mandatory minimum of 15 years and a maximum of life in prison. Transmitting obscene matter to a minor carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The actual sentence, if convicted, will be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory sentencing factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables.
The charges are only allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
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 Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov or call the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California and ask to speak with the PSC coordinator.
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