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Tag Archive | "Project Safe Childhood"

Elementary school educator gets 60 years for child exploitation


James Verne Russell

GRAND RAPIDS, MICHIGAN—James Verne Russell, 50, a former Michigan teacher and principal, was sentenced to serve 720 months in the Federal Bureau of Prisons for sexual exploitation of two minors. U.S. District Judge Janet T. Neff also imposed lifetime-supervised release should it be necessary. Russell was also sentenced on October 8, 2020 by Muskegon County Circuit Court Judge Annette R. Smedley to 20 to 95 years in the related sexual assault case.

In sentencing Russell to serve 60 years in prison, Judge Neff stated the offense “is about as serious as it gets” because of the extended length of time and “circumstances in which you took advantage of children.” Judge Neff commented that in her thirty-two years as a judge “you think you’ve seen it all” and then “something like this happens.” “You come face-to-face with a human being whose behavior you just can’t understand.” “How you can take a little boy from an awful situation” and “take what little he has away from him.” “There are very few cases that will stick out to me after all these years, but yours will. I promise you.”

Russell was in education for 22 years. He was an elementary school teacher for 16 years and an elementary school principal for six years in the Ravenna and North Muskegon School Districts. In June 2018, a teacher filed a complaint about Russell’s unusual interest in two students.

Russell was suspended by the school district and later resigned. He then moved to Las Vegas and joined the Clark County School District as a fourth grade teacher. Russell came to the attention of law enforcement, in March 2019, when the FBI Las Vegas Child Exploitation Task Force received a CyberTip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children regarding a recent upload of dozens of images, some depicting child pornography. When confronted by investigators from the FBI Las Vegas and Henderson Police Department, Russell confessed to possessing the pictures. Norton Shores Police and FBI Grand Rapids located and interviewed the victim in Michigan. The victim, identified as Victim 1 in the charges, confirmed that he was the child depicted and that Russell had sexually molested him for years. A search of Russell’s cell phone and computers disclosed numerous other images of child pornography, many of which Russell had produced himself. Further investigation disclosed another boy, identified as Victim 2, who was victimized in 2017, and a third individual who had been sexually abused by Russell beginning in 1996.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office brought federal charges against Russell for the production, transportation, and possession of child pornography. The Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office charged Russell for the sexual assaults of Victim 1. As part of a joint resolution, Russell pleaded guilty to a sexual assault charge in Muskegon County, and pleaded guilty to two counts of production of child pornography in federal court.

Russell started his career in education in 1996. That same year, he began grooming and sexually assaulting his first victim. Russell volunteered to work with children in many capacities, including as a long-term guardian, babysitter, elementary and middle school basketball coach, lifeguard, camp counselor, and youth ministries assistant at various churches. In its sentencing memorandum, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said, “Russell’s conduct is not one of opportunity or an isolated aberration. His was a deliberate and dedicated career of manipulation and sexual abuse.”

In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge stated, “Russell’s conduct is an abomination. He worked and volunteered his way into the lives of our children, not as a service to our community, but as a means to identify, target, and sexually exploit vulnerable children.

Those who are in a position of trust and sexually abuse children will be held accountable. There is no parole in the federal system. Russell will spend the rest of his life in prison and will never have the chance to molest another child.”

“The FBI is committed to working alongside our law enforcement partners to protect children from being exploited by people like Mr. Russell,” said David G. Nanz, Acting Special Agent in charge of the FBI in Michigan. “He used positions of trust to gain access to vulnerable children, abuse them and record the abuse for his own perverse pleasure. His actions were reprehensible and represent the worst betrayal of innocence and trust imaginable.”

This case is part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, county prosecutor’s offices, the Internet Crimes Against Children task force (ICAC), federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement are working closely together to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children. The partners in Project Safe Childhood work to educate local communities about the dangers of online child exploitation, and to teach children how to protect themselves. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit the following web site: www.projectsafechildhood.gov. Individuals with information or concerns about possible child exploitation should contact local law enforcement officials.

This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel Mekaru and Austin Hakes, in cooperation with the Muskegon County Prosecutor’s Office, and investigated by Henderson (Nevada) Police Department, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Norton Shores Police Department, FBI in Las Vegas, and WEBCHEX – “West Michigan Based Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force,” a partnership of FBI, Michigan State Police, and local agencies dedicated to investigating offenses against children.

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Former Rockford rowing coach sentenced


Timothy Warren Vallier

Timothy Warren Vallier

A former Rockford rowing coach that admitted recording videos of female athletes changing their clothes will spend 22 years behind bars.

Acting U.S. Attorney Andrew Byerly Birge announced Thursday, May 18, that Timothy Vallier, 31, of Plainfield Township, was sentenced on charges of attempted sexual exploitation of children and possession of child pornography. U.S. District Judge Gordon J. Quist imposed a sentence of 22 years. In addition to the prison term, Vallier was ordered to serve 5 years of supervised release, to pay restitution, and to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

On September 28, 2016, Vallier pled guilty to producing approximately 86 hidden camera videos of girls changing clothes at two high school facilities: the Rockford rowing team’s boathouse and the Rockford Freshman Center. He made these videos between January 2012 and April 2016 while he was the rowing coach at Rockford High School. The charges followed an investigation by the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, the Michigan State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and Homeland Security Investigations.

Rockford Public School Superintendent Mike Shibler contacted the Kent County Sheriff Department on the morning of July 8, 2016, after receiving a call from one of the crew (rowing) parents informing him that a video camera had been found in a crew vehicle with inappropriate footage.

Two assistant coaches in the vehicle reportedly saw the camera, and when one of the girls got curious and looked at it, found footage of two female athletes changing their clothes inside the changing room area of the Rockford Crew House located at 5501 Jupiter Ave., in Plainfield Township. Vallier was then arrested on July 10.

State charges were later dismissed since he was being prosecuted on federal charges.

“While no amount of prison time can adequately punish a child predator, this sentencing will hopefully begin the healing process for those impacted by Mr. Vallier’s depraved acts,” said HSI Acting Special Agent in Charge Steve Francis. “This was an excellent collaboration between HSI and its partners at the Kent County Sheriff’s Office and Michigan State Police to bring this predator to justice.”

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196. Information concerning suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST. For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI’s Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the suspect alerts page.

Individuals with information or concerns about possible child exploitation should contact local law enforcement. For more information about Project Safe Childhood in West Michigan, including resources for children and parents, visit: http://www.justice.gov/usao/miw/programs/psc.html.

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Federal charges filed against former Rockford rowing coach


By Judy Reed

Timothy Warren Vallier

Timothy Warren Vallier

A former Rockford coach that allegedly recorded videos of high school girls changing their clothes in the locker room now faces federal charges.

Timothy Warren Vallier, 30, the former head coach of the rowing team at Rockford Public Schools, was arraigned in federal court on Thursday, July 28, on federal criminal charges of possession and attempted production of child pornography.

The Plainfield Township man was arrested on July 8, after an investigation by the Kent County Sheriff’s Department and the Michigan State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Rockford Public School Superintendent Mike Shibler contacted the Kent County Sheriff Department on the morning of July 8 after receiving a call from one of the crew (rowing) parents informing him that a video camera had been found in a crew vehicle with inappropriate footage.

Two assistant coaches in the vehicle reportedly saw the camera, and when one of the girls got curious and looked at it, found footage of two female athletes changing their clothes inside the changing room area of the Rockford Crew House located at 5501 Jupiter Ave., in Plainfield Township.

Vallier reportedly admitted to police that he put the camcorder in the girls changing room on multiple occasions. He also said he has done this several times over the last few years, and has videos of other female athletes.

He was initially arraigned in 63rd District on two obscenity charges—one charge of child sexually abusive commercial activity and one charge of possession of child sexually abusive material; and two charges of using a computer in the commission of a crime.

The state charges will be dropped now that criminal charges have been filed.

The federal criminal complaint alleges that Vallier took hundreds of hidden videos of girls changing in locker rooms while he was the head rowing coach at the Rockford Public Schools and that a computer in his possession contained additional child pornography.

The government asked the court to detain Vallier pending trial, and he will remain in custody pending a hearing on the matter early next week. He has been in the Kent County Jail since his arrest.

If convicted, Vallier faces a minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years in federal prison on each count of attempting to produce child pornography and up to 20 years for possession. Each offense also carries a requirement for sex offender registration, a potential fine of up to $250,000 and financial compensation to the victims, and up to lifetime of intensive supervised release after incarceration, during which the court can impose a number of special conditions designed to protect children.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST. For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI’s Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tessa K. Hessmiller as part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from exploitation and abuse. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, county prosecutor’s offices, and federal, state, and local law enforcement are working closely together to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children. Individuals with information or concerns about possible child exploitation should contact local law enforcement.

For more information about Project Safe Childhood in West Michigan, including resources for children and parents, visit: http://www.justice.gov/usao/miw/programs/psc.html.

 

 

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