SUBSCRIBE NOW
As low as 99¢ for the first month
SUBSCRIBE NOW
As low as 99¢ for the first month

Jury convicts PSJ man for child porn

A federal jury in Pensacola last week convicted Clark Downs, 71, of Port St. Joe, on one count of producing child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography.

The guilty verdict was reached by the 12-person jury on Nov. 12 at the conclusion of a three-day trial, all conducted in-person.

Clark Downs

In Nov. 2014, Downs coerced a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing child pornography. In April 2018, he was found to be in possession of material containing child pornography.

According to an April 19, 2018 news release from the Gulf County Sheriff’s Office, Downs’ arrest came at the result of an investigation that began one month prior, after Investigator L. Dickey received information regarding an alleged sexual assault of a victim under age 18, and an incident that occurred in 2014 involving a victim under age 18 at the time.

Following the month-long investigation, a warrant for Downs’ arrest was obtained for using a computer to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice a child. The sheriff’s office reported that Downs had used Facebook Messenger to receive and solicit inappropriate photographs of the victim personally known by him.

On April 18, 2018, investigators executed a search of Downs’ residence on St. Joe Beach, and took him into custody. With the assistance of special agents from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and an analyst from the FDLE Computer Crime Center, a preview of Downs’ computer at the scene revealed photographs he took in Nov. 2014 of the second victim in the case. These pictures corroborated information provided by the victim.

The discovery of the photographs led to additional charges of sexual battery on a person age 12 or older, lewd or lascivious molestation of a victim age 12 or older, and 11 counts of possession of child pornography.

The computers and electronic devices seized were then analyzed by the FDLE Computer Crime Center and additional charges are anticipated. After Downs was booked into the Gulf County Detention Facility and released on a $110,000 bond, he was incarcerated on federal charges beginning July 26, 2019, and has been in custody since.

“Child exploitation is horrendous and affects the most vulnerable members of our communities,” said Lawrence Keefe, U. S. attorney for the Northern District of Florida. “We will continue working tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to protect our children from abuse by investigating and prosecuting criminals like Downs.”

 “The teamwork approach from all law enforcement agencies involved led to the successful conclusion of this case,” said Gulf County Sheriff Mike Harrison. “I am proud of their hard work and dedication.”

Downs’ sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 28, 2021, at the U.S. Courthouse in Pensacola.

“I commend the fervent efforts of our members and our law enforcement partners in working to protect Floridians, especially the most innocent and vulnerable among us,” said Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Pensacola Regional Operations Center Special Agent in Charge Jack Massey. “Let this serve as a warning to those who would exploit and abuse children in our state: we will be relentless in bringing you to justice.”

The case was investigated by the Gulf County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michelle Spaven and Aine Ahmed.

“The crimes this child predator has committed cannot be undone,” said HSI Jacksonville Assistant Special Agent in Charge K. Jim Phillips. “We hope this guilty verdict provides another step in recovery for his victim.”