GALVESTON, Texas – A 57-year-old resident of Galveston who claimed
the judicial system had no jurisdiction over him is headed to federal prison,
announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick.
U.S. District Judge George C. Hanks Jr. found John David
Knowlton guilty of receipt and possession of child
pornography following a two-day bench trial that concluded June
Today, Judge Hanks ordered him to
serve 144 and 120 months for the receipt and possession convictions,
respectively. The sentences will run concurrently for a total 12-year-term of
imprisonment. The court took into consideration victim impact statements
and arguments detailing Knowlton’s extensive child pornography collection. In
handing down the sentence, the court noted Knowlton’s military service and age,
but also considered the seriousness of the offenses, the community and justice
for the child victims. Knowlton will also serve 15 years on supervised release
following completion of his prison term, during which time he will have to
comply with numerous requirements designed to restrict his access to children
and the internet. He will also be ordered to register as a sex offender.
During trial, the court heard testimony from multiple law
enforcement officers and a Comcast custodian of records.
In February 2016, law enforcement conducted an online
session using a publicly available peer-to-peer file-sharing network and
located an IP address whose shared folder contained images of child
pornography. The IP address was associated with Knowlton’s residence.
When law enforcement searched his home, they discovered
more than a dozen electronic devices belonging to him that contained child
pornography. Forensic analysis found that 18 electronic devices contained
thousands of images and hundreds of videos of child pornography.
Knowlton had opted to represent himself at the trial with
the court-appointed shadow defense counsel. Knowlton, identifying as a
sovereign citizen, argued that the federal judicial system had no jurisdiction
over him. The court was not persuaded by his arguments and found him guilty as
Previously released on bond, Knowlton was taken into
custody after the guilty verdict where has remained pending transfer to a
U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security
Investigations, Pearland Police Department and Galveston Police Department’s -
Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force conducted the investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Zahra Jivani Fenelon and Kimberly Leo
prosecuted the case, which 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 the
United States Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation
and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local
resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit
children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about
Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab “resources.”