Southampton County man sentenced for production of child pornography
A Southampton County man was sentenced this week to 40 years in prison for producing and possessing images of child sexual abuse.
James William Thomas, III, 36, was found guilty by a jury on Feb. 13, 2020, of seven counts of production of child pornography and three counts of possession of child pornography.
According to court records, Thomas’s crimes were discovered in 2014 after he was caught burglarizing a coin shop in Franklin. Southampton County investigators obtained a search warrant for Thomas’s residence and seized evidence related to over 25 unsolved burglaries in Virginia and North Carolina.
Part of this seizure included computers and other digital storage devices.
The evidence presented at trial showed that a review of these electronic devices revealed the presence of child pornography. Investigators found detailed folders on the devices with names of child victims and saved chat sessions.
Over multiple years, Thomas, then in his late 20s, posed as a 17-year-old teen and befriended female victims on social media who were generally between the ages of 12-16. Thomas then groomed these victims and convinced them to produce naked images of themselves to send to him.
In some instances, he convinced them to masturbate over a webcam, which Thomas recorded and saved. Thomas saved these chat sessions and the images in the folders on the electronic devices.
The evidence adduced at trial further demonstrated that Thomas chatted online with dozens of minor victims. To keep track of them, he employed a “cheat sheet” at the top of the saved chat sessions for each victim, which contained information including their name, age, phone number, and other facts, such as how easily they provided him with naked images.
In one instance, he convinced a 14-year-old girl to meet him for sex on three separate occasions. Each time, Thomas had the victim pose naked for photographs and then recorded their sexual encounters.
Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Brian Dugan, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office, made the announcement after sentencing by U.S. District Judge Arenda Wright Allen.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph L. Kosky prosecuted the case.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. Attorney’s Offices and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), 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, visit www.justice.gov/psc.