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Close to spend quarter century in prison for crimes against children

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COLUMBUS — Mickell E. Close, 32, of Quincy, was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court to 25 years in prison for recording nude images of three young children in his house and exchanging them on the Internet for images of child pornography.

The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr.

The defendant pleaded guilty Jan. 17 to one count of using minors to engage in sexually-explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of the conduct.

According to a statement read by a Homeland Security Investigations agent during the plea hearing, law enforcement officials patrolling the Internet in June 2012 identified an e-mail account connected to sharing child pornography. Investigators traced the account to the suspect.

Further investigation found that Mr. Close had placed cameras in his house to surreptitiously record video of three minor females as young as 3 years old while they were nude in the bathroom. He then created hundreds of videos and thousands of still images of the victims and posted and traded the photos and videos by e-mail and the Internet in exchange for images and videos of child pornography.

“Once images of exploitation are on the Internet, they never go away,” Carter M. Stewart, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, said in a release. “This adds to the indignity and humiliation the victims are already facing.”

In a memorandum filed with the court prior to sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Heather Hill also wrote about the effects of the defendant’s actions on the victims and their families.

“The defendant’s actions in this case involve his ongoing abuse of the trust that was placed in him by three pre-pubescent girls and their families,” she wrote. “This devastating invasion of the privacy of young girls was further exacerbated by the defendant’s trading of the images and videos he had created to others who shared his perverted interests.”

Logan County Sheriff’s deputies working with HSI agents arrested Mr. Close Nov. 9. He already was a registered sex offender in Logan County following his conviction in 2000 for gross sexual imposition involving a 3-year-old female victim.

He has been in custody since his arrest last year.

“Today’s sentencing is another step toward healing for the victims of the depraved acts perpetrated by the defendant in this case,” William Hayes, acting special agent in charge of HSI Detroit, which covers Michigan and Ohio, said Thursday. “While we cannot restore the innocence stolen from the young victims in cases like these, we will continue to make the aggressive pursuit of their predators among our highest priorities.”

“Individuals who represent the worst of the worst are the reasons why we do what we do,” said Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott, who heads the Franklin County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

“Close’s sentence can prevent other children from horrific and unimaginable abuse. It’s because of the cooperative effort between all of the agencies that make up the Franklin County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and HSI, that predators are identified and brought to justice.”

His sentence is announced through the collaboration of U.S. Attorney Stewart; Mr. Hayes of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s HSI in Ohio and Michigan; Franklin County Sheriff Scott and Logan County Sheriff Andrew J. Smith.

Mr. Close was also ordered to forfeit all computer equipment and visual depictions of the child pornography that were seized from him at the time of the execution of the search warrant in this case.

After the defendant completes his prison term, he will be under court supervision for 20 years. The U.S. Probation Office will install monitoring software on any computer he owns, uses or has access to during his period of supervised release. He will also be required to register as a sex offender anywhere he lives, works or goes to school.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children as well as to identify and rescue victims.

For more information about Project Safe Childhood, visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

CLICK HERE to read a related Examiner story about Marysville resident Justin Stewart Mote.

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