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Evansville Sex Offender Sentenced to 15 Years in Federal Prison for Distribution of Child Sexual Abuse Material and Illegal Firearm Possession

EVANSVILLE – Justin Owens, 63, of Evansville, was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm and distribution of child sexual abuse material.

According to court documents, in October 2020, law enforcement officers received information that Owens was distributing child sexual abuse material using Instagram Direct. On May 11, 2021, law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Owens’ Evansville residence to locate additional evidence of Owens’ distribution of child sexual abuse material. During the search of the residence, a 12-gauge shotgun and assorted ammunition was recovered. Owens said the shotgun was his and further stated that he possessed a loaded .22 caliber handgun and ammunition inside a camper that was located on the property. Officers additionally seized more ammunition and 18 loaded .223 magazines for an AR15 style rifle inside a safe in a detached garage. 

Owens is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms due to a 1999 Vanderburgh County, Indiana, felony conviction for child molestation. Based on this prior conviction for an offense involving the sexual abuse of a minor, Owens was subject to an enhanced penalty under U.S. law for the distribution of sexually explicit material involving minors. 

Zachary A. Myers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana, and Herbert J. Stapleton, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis Field Office, made the announcement.

FBI investigated the case and the Evansville Police Department provided valuable assistance. The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Richard L. Young. As part of the sentence, Judge Young ordered that Owens be supervised by the U.S. Probation Office for 20 years following his release from federal prison. Owens must also register as sex offender wherever he lives, works, or goes to school, as required by law.

U.S. Attorney Myers thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Shellenbarger who prosecuted this case.

In fiscal year 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, the Southern District of Indiana was second out of the 94 federal districts in the country for the number of child sexual exploitation cases prosecuted.

This case 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 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc

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