URBANA, Ill. – A Decatur, Ill., man, Cornell D.A. Johnson, 24, of the 1100 block of East Division St., was sentenced today to 45 years in prison for producing child pornography involving multiple minors. Upon imposing sentence, Senior U.S. District Judge Michael M. Mihm described Johnson as a “ringmaster,” who engaged in an “exercise of power,” to prey on victims of a vulnerable age for his pleasure and satisfaction.
According to admissions made in connection with his guilty pleas, entered on Feb. 19, 2020, Johnson controlled multiple female-presenting profiles on Facebook, which he used to contact female Facebook users. He then enticed the minors to send him photographs that progressed from various stages of undress to sexually suggestive and/or sexually explicit photographs of themselves.
Once Johnson obtained compromising images, he threatened to injure the minor victims’ reputations and embarrass them by posting their nude pictures online if they failed to comply with his demands for additional images. Among his demands, Johnson specifically directed the minor teenagers to sexually abuse younger children in their household to produce images.
At the time of his arrest, in February 2019, Johnson was identified in more than 80 Cybertips Facebook reported from across the U.S. and Canada to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force affiliate agencies identified 17 minor victims located in nine judicial districts across eight states. The victims ranged in age from 4 to 17 years old.
Johnson has remained in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service since his arrest. He was ordered to remain on supervised release for life upon completion of his prison sentence.
The charges are the result of an investigation by the Decatur Police Department; the Illinois Attorney General’s Office Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force; and, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations. Vital assistance was provided by the U.S. Attorneys’ offices for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, the Western District of Pennsylvania, the District of Arizona, the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and the Western District of Wisconsin. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elly M. Peirson prosecuted the case on behalf of the government.
The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative by the Department of Justice to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s 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, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.