Antioch resident sentenced to over 11 years in prison for possession of child pornography

Investigation began with tips from concerned citizens

OAKLAND – Sonny Mitchell was sentenced today to 135 months in prison for possession of child pornography, announced United States Attorney David L. Anderson and United States Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Thomas C. Edwards.  The Honorable Jon S. Tigar, U.S. District Judge, handed down the sentence earlier today.

Mitchell, 45, of Antioch, pleaded guilty to the charge on August 16, 2019.  According to his plea agreement, Mitchell admitted to possessing and distributing to others, images of children as young as seven years old engaged in sexually explicit conduct.  Mitchell used a social media platform to communicate with others and then distribute the images, which included videos and GIFs (Graphics Interchange Format).  In one video, an adult male voice is heard giving directions to two minors who were engaged in sexually explicit conduct.  Mitchell also agreed he was subject to a minimum sentence of ten years imprisonment because of his conviction in 1999 for unlawful sex with a minor.

A federal grand jury indicted Mitchell on May 9, 2019, charging him with two counts of distribution of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2) and (b)(1), and one count of possession of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B) and (b)(2). Mitchell pleaded guilty to the possession count and the distribution counts were dismissed at sentencing.

This investigation began when a member of the public called local police to report Mitchell’s transmission of child pornography using a social media platform.  In addition, during the course of the investigation, Mitchell was identified as the user of a social media account that had been reported by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) as being used to transmit child pornography.  NCMEC had received a cyber-tip indicating that an individual was using a social media platform to send child pornography to other users.  Law enforcement eventually identified Mitchell as the user of the account transmitting the images.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Tigar sentenced Mitchell to seven years of supervised release.  The defendant will begin serving the prison term immediately.  In addition, Judge Tigar scheduled a hearing for January 24, 2020, to determine issues regarding restitution.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan U. Lee is prosecuting the case with the assistance of Jessica Rodriguez and Kathleen Turner.  The prosecution is the result of an investigation by the U.S. Secret Service, the Silicon Valley Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office, and the Antioch Police Department.

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