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Child porn cases heard in Southwest Virginia

Child porn cases heard in Southwest Virginia

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One Southwest Virginia man has been sentenced to six years in prison while another pleaded guilty in separate federal child pornography cases.

On Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Abingdon, Matthew Thompson, 40, of Lebanon, was sentenced to six years in a federal prison for using the online messaging application Kik to distribute images of child pornography to undercover law enforcement officers, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Court documents reveal that in 2020, officers in Wisconsin identified Thompson’s Kik username, “gbrown20201,” as being responsible for distributing child pornography by posting such materials onto a Kik chat room messaging board frequented by individuals interested in child pornography images, prosecutors said in a news release.

Then in July 2020, officials in Texas identified the “gbrown20201” username as being an active member of two known child pornography chat groups and serving as an administrator for one of the groups, the release states. The Texas investigation revealed that Thompson distributed at least nine images of child porn between July 24, 2020, and July 31, 2020, and received additional child porn materials, according to the release.

Thompson pleaded guilty in June 2021 to one count of knowingly distributing one or more visual depictions of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct that has been mailed or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.

In a separate case in Abingdon, a Bland County man pleaded guilty to 17 counts of producing child pornography at his home and illegally possessing a firearm after previously being convicted of a felony offense, prosecutors said. On Feb. 12, the Bland County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police searched William Dean Blankenship’s home after receiving information that he engaged in sexual acts with children and had child pornography.

During the search, authorities said they found a firearm, a cellphone and other electronic devices. The phone contained more than 50 video files of child pornography produced by Blankenship, 42, authorities said in a news release.

Prosecutors said Blankenship routinely coerced and enticed two minor children to engage in sexual activity after providing them with narcotics. The children were 13 and 14 years old, the release states.

“Blankenship repeatedly used coercive means to abuse his child victims, and now faces a lengthy prison sentence for these horrific acts,” Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Bubar said.

Bubar said law enforcement will continue to prosecute anyone who seeks to prey on children.

Blankenship faces between 20-50 years in prison and will be sentenced Dec. 17.

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