Maryland man pleads guilty to sexually exploiting a minor to produce child pornography

BALTIMORE - A Maryland man pleaded guilty to sexually exploiting a minor to produce child pornography. He faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years in prison, followed by up to lifetime supervised release. The guilty plea is the result of an investigation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

John E. Widdows, 72, of Cumberland, Md., pleaded guilty late yesterday to the charge. U.S. District Judge Benson Everett Legg has scheduled sentencing for Sept. 8, 2011, at 2:00 p.m.

The guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge William Winter of ICE HSI in Baltimore; Cumberland Police Chief Charles H. Hinnant; and Allegany County State's Attorney Michael O. Twigg.

According to the plea agreement, law enforcement seized from Widdows' home three videos of the victim, a prepubescent female, engaging in sexually explicit conduct at Widdows' direction and at least 100 additional images of child pornography. The first video was made on Jan. 17, 2005, when the victim was nine-years-old and Widdows was 67-years-old. The other two videos were made later that year and also show the molestation of the victim by Widdows.

As part of his plea agreement, upon his release from prison Widdows must register as a sex offender in the place where he resides, where he is an employee, and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA).

This investigation was part of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders, and child sex traffickers.

ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.

Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or

U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended ICE HSI, the Cumberland Police Department and the Allegany County State's Attorney's Office for their work in the investigation and prosecution.

Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark W. Crooks and Sandra Wilkinson, who prosecuted the case.