28-year-old Prosser first grade teacher sentenced to 27 years pr - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

28-year-old Prosser first grade teacher sentenced to 27 years prison for child pornography

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SPOKANE, WA – Joseph H. Harrington, Acting United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that Stephen Jeffrey Castilleja, age 28, of Prosser, Washington, was sentenced today for four counts of Production of Child Pornography. Senior United States District Judge Edward F. Shea sentenced Castilleja to a twenty-seven year term of imprisonment, to be followed by a lifetime of court supervision after he is released from federal prison. Castilleja will also be required to register as a sex offender.

According to information disclosed during court proceedings, in January of 2016, a Kennewick Police Department detective affiliated with the Southeast Regional Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (SER-ICAC) was conducting an online undercover investigation relating to the distribution of child pornography. During the course of this investigation, an IP address affiliated with Castilleja and his residence in Prosser was identified as distributing known images of child pornography. Law enforcement agents obtained a federal search warrant for Castilleja’s residence.

Law enforcement officers with the SER-ICAC, HSI, and the Benton County Sheriff’s Office executed the search warrant at Castilleja’s residence. Castilleja was located in close proximity to the residence and was subsequently interviewed. During the course of the interview, Castilleja admitted that he possessed “inappropriate videos” on his computer, and advised he thought he may lose a lot of his life, including his teaching job and volunteer position, over the videos. Castilleja further informed officers that he viewed child pornography for ten to fifteen minutes a day at his worst, and could not bring himself to delete his collection of child pornography. Castilleja also admitted that he had produced child pornography images of two minor children when they were five or six years old, and directed officers to specific electronic devices in the residence that contained child pornography.

The electronic devices seized from Castilleja’s residence were forensically examined. Officers located known child pornography images, as well as child pornography images Castilleja had produced of children close to him. The children depicted were children Castilleja had access to by virtue of his job as a first grade teacher, his intimate relationships, and his familial relationships. The child pornography images and videos that Castilleja produced spanned almost a decade, and included images and videos that portrayed Castilleja engaged in sexual abuse of two of the minor victims. Another video depicted a victim in the school where Castilleja taught as a first grade teacher.

At sentencing, Judge Shea read portions of the impact statements submitted by the victims in the case. He emphasized the immense and immediate harm Castilleja’s actions had on the victims and their families, as well as the long-term ramifications of Castilleja’s crimes. Judge Shea also recognized Castilleja’s abuse of the various positions of trust he held in the community, stating, “In this case there was the ultimate betrayal of trust…the face of a predator is not always what we think it will be. In this case it was a face that seem[ed] harmless…” Judge Shea further stated, “You had a compulsion, an obsession, and structured your life in a position to take advantage of little people…when they were most vulnerable.”

Joseph H. Harrington said, “Today’s sentence should serve as a warning to those criminals who produce child pornography -- they will be actively pursued by federal and state law enforcement officers. This egregious case is an example of the superb work that can be accomplished when state and federal law enforcement officers work together. The United States Attorney’s Office will continue to prosecute aggressively child pornography crimes that occur in the Eastern District of Washington.”

“We entrust teachers to serve as role models for our children and safeguard their welfare. As this sentence makes clear, when that trust is violated, there will be serious consequences,” said Brad Bench, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Seattle. “This case should also serve as a stern warning to those who mistakenly believe cyberspace affords them anonymity and they can use the Internet to sexually exploit children with impunity.”

This case was pursued as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the United States 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. The Project Safe Childhood Initiative (“PSC”) has five major components:

• Integrated federal, state, and local efforts to investigate and prosecute child exploitation cases, and to identify and rescue children;
• Participation of PSC partners in coordinated national initiatives;
• Increased federal enforcement in child pornography and enticement cases;
• Training of federal, state, and local law enforcement agents; and
• Community awareness and educational programs.

For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. For information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab “resources.”

The Southeast Regional Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, Homeland Security Investigations, Kennewick Police Department and Benton County Sheriff’s Office conducted the investigation of this matter. The case was prosecuted by Laurel J. Holland, an Assistant United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, and Andrew Howell, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney for Benton County.

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