Burnsville man sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for child pornography

Buncombe County Commissioners voted Oct. 18 to accept nearly $2.25 million in grants to help prevent crime and help victims of crime.

ASHEVILLE - A Burnsville man was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for producing child pornography, U.S. Attorney Dena J. King announced in an Oct. 4 news release.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children tipped off the Yancey County Sheriff's Office in early 2020 that a man was spreading child pornography via social media, and the Sheriff's Office identified the man as Joshua Andrew Phillips, 33, the release said. Police seized Phillips’s cellphones and computer, and a Homeland Security Investigations Computer Forensic Analyst reviewed the devices and located the images Phillips had produced. Law enforcement also discovered on the devices more than 8,400 images and videos of children being sexually abused, according to the release.

“Phillips is a child predator who victimized two young children, produced images of that victimization, and then shared them on social media. His lengthy prison sentence reflects the seriousness of his criminal conduct,” King said in a statement to the Citizen Times. “I want to emphasize that child pornography is a record of a child’s sexual exploitation, and when images memorializing the exploitation are shared on the internet or social media, the victimization of that child continues in perpetuity. My office will continue to hold accountable individuals who engage in any form of child sexual exploitation.”

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Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexis Solheim, at the Asheville U.S. Attorney’s Office, prosecuted the case. Phillips pleaded guilty May 20 and will be transferred to the federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a facility. After his prison time, Phillips will be on a lifetime of supervised release and must register as a sex offender, the release said.

"This sentence should serve as a warning to those involved in viewing, creating or distributing these disturbing images of children being abused, HSI and its law enforcement partners will find, arrest and prosecute you,” Special Agent in Charge Ronnie Martinez, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations operations in North and South Carolina, said in a statement to the Citizen Times.

In the release, King commended HSI and the Yancey County Sheriff’s Office for their investigation of the case. The Yancey County Sheriff's Office did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, the news release said, a nationwide initiative launched in 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing online sexual exploitation of children. The project looks to combine resources of federal, state and local agencies to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue those victims.

This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: Burnsville man sentenced to 20 years for child pornography