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Fort Stewart solider pleads guilty to child porn

He pleaded guilty to child porn production.
He pleaded guilty to child porn production.(Lowndes County Jail)
Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 4:31 PM EST
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VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - A soldier stationed at Fort Stewart pleaded guilty to child pornography production involving a 13-year-old victim, according to the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia.

Aaron Sutherland, 28, pleaded guilty to the production of child pornography before U.S. District Judge Louis Sands on Thursday.

He is facing a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years to a maximum 30 years in prison to be followed by at least five years up to a lifetime of supervised release and a $250,000 fine. He will have to register as a sex offender for life upon his release from federal prison, which there is no parole.

Sentencing is set for April 28.

“Parents must remain vigilant and monitor whom their children are communicating with on their cell phones and on social media because online predators are lurking,” said U.S. Attorney Peter Leary. “Our office — working alongside federal, state and local authorities — will pursue significant penalties for any adults who sexually entice, abuse or harm a minor.”

“Stopping predators that produce and distribute the disturbing images of children being exploited is of critical importance,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “Unfortunately, we cannot protect all children by ourselves and need your help to monitor who your children interact with and report anything that doesn’t seem right.”

“This case is another example of the fruitful results that occur when we combine the resources of local, state and federal law enforcement partners to get predators off the street,” said Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk.

Court documents state Sutherland admitted he began communicating with a 13-year-old female while he was on active duty for the U.S. Army at Fort Stewart in February 2021. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Sutherland “enticed the victim to send multiple nude images and videos of a sexual nature and asked to meet the child to engage in sexual activity.”

The victim’s mother found her child messaging an adult man in April 2021, “after she observed her child acting strangely and confiscated her phone,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

“In the messages, Sutherland stated the victim’s age. The mother reported the crime to authorities, and Sutherland was arrested on May 3, 2021. Sutherland provided law enforcement with his secret image vault where he saved all of the pictures and videos of the child,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

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