Southern Utah man indicted in federal court following sting operation targeting online predators

File photo courtesy of the Utah Attorney General's Office, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A Washington City man arrested during an undercover sting operation by task force agents working under the Utah Attorney General’s Office has been indicted in federal court and faces one count of possession of child pornography and an enticement-coercion charge.

Stock image for illustrative purposes only by AlessandroPhoto/ iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

And if convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in federal prison.

Defendant Damon Roy Campbell, 50, of Washington City, was indicted March 15 in U.S. District Court on two federal charges, including one count of coercion-enticement and one count of possession of child pornography, according to the indictment that was unsealed last week.

The federal case was filed in connection with an undercover sting operation conducted by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) at the end of October 2022. The technique targeted online predators, including those seeking to meet children using various internet and social media message sites in Washington County, according to the probable cause statement filed in support of the 2022 arrest.

During the operation, an agent posing as a parent of a young child came across a user who said in the message thread he had an attraction to children ages 3-8.

The suspect identified himself as “Damon” in the message thread and he asked whether the undercover agent would “share his son” so the suspect could perform sexual acts upon the child. Arrangements were made for the suspect to meet up with the purported parent and the youngster.

When the suspect arrived at the pre-arranged spot, he was met by agents and taken into custody by Washington City Police detectives who handled the investigation from there.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brady Wilson, who is lead federal prosecutor in the case, noted that shortly after the suspect’s arrest, law enforcement officers located several videos that had been saved during the sting operation in October — videos that depicted “graphic sexual content between adults and infants, adults and toddlers, and adults and preteens.”

ICAC Task Force. SECURE Strike Force, location and date unspecified | Image courtesy of Utah Attorney General’s Office, St. George News

On Oct. 26, 2022, the case was filed by the Washington County Attorney’s Office and the defendant was charged with five second-degree felony counts of sexual exploitation of a minor for what was found on the suspect’s cellphone. Campbell also was charged with one third-degree felony count of enticing a minor by internet or text for reportedly meeting up with what the suspect believed was a 6-year-old boy.

Five months later, the case was picked up by federal prosecutors and the defendant was indicted March 15. The indictment was unsealed one week later and the state charges were dismissed.

Federal prosecutors are also seeking continued detention for Campbell based on the presumption that “no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant as required and the safety of the community because there is probable cause to believe that the defendant has committed the following an offense involving a minor victim.”

In summary, the federal prosecutor wrote:

The defendant should not be allowed out of custody because, with these facts and Mr. Campbell’s willingness to go to such lengths to satisfy his grotesque desires, there are no conditions or combination of conditions that will reasonably assure the safety of any other person and the community.

Judge Paul Kohler heard oral arguments between the government and Aric M. Cramer, Campbell’s defense attorney, during a detention hearing held in U.S. District Court in St. George Thursday morning and ordered that Campbell remain in federal custody while he awaits the three-day trial that is scheduled to start on May 30.

Until then, the defendant remains in jail in Washington County under the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

If convicted, the sentence for possession of child pornography is 15-40 years in prison, while the enticement charge carries a sentence of 10 years to life in federal prison.

This report is based on statements from court records, police or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.

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