LINCOLN, Neb. – Interim Special Agent in Charge of the Homeland Security Investigation (HSI) Kansas City Taekuk Cho and United States Attorney Steven Russell announced that United States District Court Judge John M. Gerrard has sentenced Aaron Joseph Kearney, 50, of Lincoln, to 13 years in prison for possession of child pornography on January 20. The ruling follows an investigation by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). When he completes his prison sentence, Kearney will serve 10 years on probation. There is no parole in the federal system. The judge also ordered Kearney to pay $3,000 in restitution to a victim and $5,000 in special appraisals. Kearney pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor on October 6.
Officers of the Department of Homeland Security in Phoenix, Arizona discovered Kearney’s involvement when they investigated the receipt of child sexual abuse material on an instant messaging platform. They obtained information on the accounts of Kearney and others who traded child sexual abuse material with the subject’s account in Phoenix. One of the accounts, later found to belong to Kearney, posted messages on August 26, 2021, requesting child sexual abuse material. Three days later, Kearney’s account posted six videos depicting minors engaging in sexually explicit behavior. Three of the videos involved prepubescent children.
After tracing that account to Kearney, HSI agents in Nebraska obtained a search warrant for Kearney’s Lincoln residence. Authorities executed the warrant on January 27, 2022 and confiscated Kearney’s cell phone. Kearney was home at the time and officers interviewed him. Kearney confessed that the account in question belonged to him and that he had used that account to search for child sexual abuse material.
Officials later examined Kearney’s phone, which contained two videos depicting minors engaging in sexually explicit behavior. Investigators also discovered three applications used to clean and delete files from mobile devices.
One of the factors the District Court considered in Kearney’s sentencing was that he had previously been convicted on April 7, 2008, in the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska, of possession of child sexual abuse materials.
The investigation was conducted by HSI, and this case was filed under Project Safe Childhood, a national initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section of the Criminal Division, Project Safe Childhood brings together federal, state and local resources to better locate, arrest and prosecute those who exploit children via the Internet , as well as to identify and rescue victims . For more information about Project Safe Childhood, visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
HSI is the lead investigative arm of the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, particularly those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel and finance. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 Special Agents assigned to 237 cities across the United States and 93 foreign offices in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence overseas and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.
Learn more about HSI’s mission to combat child exploitation in our Twitter community @HSIKansasCity.