CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Jonathan Wheeler Johnston, 40, of Norman, Oklahoma, was sentenced today to 25 years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release for receipt and attempted receipt of child pornography, announced William T. Stetzer, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. As part of his sentence, Johnston was also ordered to register as a sex offender, and to pay $5,900 in restitution and $40,100 in special assessments.
Robert R. Wells, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Charlotte Division, joins Acting U.S. Attorney Stetzer in making today’s announcement.
According to court documents, in April 2019, Johnston began communicating with a 15-year-old minor female located in the Western District of North Carolina, whom he met in an online chatroom for teenagers. After chatting with the teenager online, Johnston mailed the minor a cellphone, for the purpose of exchanging sexually explicit images and engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Court records show that the minor’s parent contacted law enforcement after discovering the cellphone and finding texts and other sexually explicit exchanges between the minor and Johnston. A subsequent forensic analysis of the minor’s cellphone by the FBI revealed that Johnston had repeatedly asked the minor for sexually explicit photos and videos, and had sent the minor links to pornographic material, including videos containing bestiality. In addition, over the course of their communications, Johnston sent the minor sexually explicit images of himself and instructed the minor not to disclose to anyone his name or age because he could get in trouble.
Court records show that when the minor informed Johnston that law enforcement were aware of their communications, Johnston attempted to cover his conduct by wiping his devices of evidence concerning his exchanges with the minor.
According to court records, in 2013, while Johnston was serving in the U.S. Army, he was convicted of possession, manufacture and distribution of child pornography. As a result of that conviction, Johnston was sentenced to six years in prison, was dishonorably discharged and was required to register as a sex offender for six years. His parole from that conviction ended in March 2018, just a little over a year before he began communicating with the 15-year-old minor located in the Western District of North Carolina.
Johnston is currently in federal custody and will be transferred to the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility.
In making today’s announcement, U.S. Attorney Stetzer thanked the FBI, the Huntersville Police Department, and the Norman Police Department in Oklahoma for their investigation of the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark T. Odulio, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, prosecuted the case.
The case was brought by Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
Department of Justice
Office of the U.S. Attorney
Western District of North Carolina