Derek Wallace Johnson, accused of downloading and sharing child pornography, admitted to criminal charges in federal court in Great Falls on Wednesday.
U.S. Attorney Kurt Alme said in a news release that Johnson, 41 years old, pleaded guilty to distribution of child pornography and to receipt of child pornography.
The prosecution said in court documents that in October 2019, Homeland Security Investigations in Great Falls received information that a suspect had uploaded possible child pornography in April 2019.
An investigation determined that the uploaded image depicted a child engaged in sexually explicit conduct and led to Johnson as the suspect. Investigators served a search warrant on Johnson's residence. Johnson, who was present for the search, told officers he had lost his cell phone a few days earlier, but an agent found it hidden between the box spring and mattress in Johnson's bedroom.
After initially being untruthful, Johnson admitted he had participated in online activity involving child pornography and admitted to hiding his phone. He also said he had about 1,000 videos and images of child pornography in an encrypted app on his phone. Johnson told officers he downloaded child pornography in Kik chat rooms and shared files with others seeking images in chat rooms.
Agents searched Johnson's phone and determined it contained child pornography images. Johnson distributed child pornography in April 2019 and had downloaded or received child pornography from December 2016 to November 2019.
Johnson faces a mandatory minimum of five years and up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and five years to life of supervised release.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian Morris presided at the hearing, and scheduled sentencing for January 21; Johnson remains in custody.