ASHEVILLE, N.C (STL.News) U.S. District Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. sentenced Nathan Michael McInnis, 45, of Rutherfordton, N.C., to 156 months in prison yesterday for distribution of child pornography, announced Andrew Murray, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. McInnis was also ordered to serve a lifetime of supervised release and to register as a sex offender after he is released from prison.
Ronnie Martinez, Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in North Carolina joins U.S. Attorney Murray in making today’s announcement.
According to filed documents and statements made in court, on September 10, 2018, Homeland Security Investigations became aware that an individual, later identified as McInnis, was using a peer-to-peer network to share with other users files containing images and videos depicting the sexual abuse of children. Court records show that an HSI Special Agent, who accessed the network and was able to connect with McInnis’ device, downloaded multiple files containing child pornography, much of which had been produced in and distributed from foreign countries.
According to court records, on October 18, 2018, law enforcement executed a federal search warrant at McInnis’ residence in Rutherfordton. During the execution of the search warrant, law enforcement seized six devices. A forensic examination of the devices revealed that they contained multiple images and videos depicting children as young as infants being sexually abused. In total, law enforcement located approximately 1,457 images and 93 videos of child pornography on McInnis’ devices.
On September 23, 2020, McInnis pleaded guilty to distribution and attempted distribution of child pornography. He is currently in custody and will be transferred to the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility.
U.S. Attorney Murray commended HSI for handling the investigation, and thanked the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office for their invaluable assistance.
Special Assistant U.S. Attorney (SAUSA) Alexis Solheim, with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville, prosecuted the case. Ms. Solheim is a state prosecutor with the office of the 43rd Prosecutorial District, and was assigned by District Attorney Ashley Welch to serve as a SAUSA with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville. Ms. Solheim is duly sworn in both state and federal courts. The SAUSA position is a reflection of the partnership between the office of the 43rd Prosecutorial District and the United States Attorney’s Office.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in 2006 by the Department of Justice, aimed at combating the growing online sexual exploitation of children. By combining resources, federal, state and local agencies are better able to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue those victims.