An Independence, Mo., man was sentenced in federal court for possessing and distributing child pornography following two unrelated investigations by separate law enforcement agencies.
Nicholas P. Johnson, 29, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Greg Kays to 12 years and six months in federal prison without parole. The court also ordered Johnson to pay $19,000 in restitution to his victims and sentenced him to spend the rest of his life on supervised release following incarceration. Johnson will be required to register as a sex offender upon his release from prison and will be subject to federal and state sex offender registration requirements, which may apply throughout his life.
On March 17, 2023, Johnson pleaded guilty to one count of distributing child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography that involves a prepubescent minor.
Johnson admitted that he shared images of child pornography on multiple occasions on Discord, a social media platform. When task force officers with the Western Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force received reports of two separate Cybertipline reports from Discord, they contacted Johnson on June 17, 2020, and seized his cell phone. A forensic analysis of Johnson’s cell phone found 292 videos and 888 photos of child pornography.
Investigators also found Kik Messenger chats between Johnson and another individual in which Johnson made claims that he had sexually abused children. Johnson was actually communicating with an undercover FBI task force officer, who was conducting a separate and unrelated investigation.
In May 2020, an FBI Child Exploitation Task Force officer was working online in an undercover capacity, monitoring internet forums known to be used for sharing child pornography. During that online investigation, the undercover officer communicated with Johnson via the Kik Messenger application and, later, the Wickr instant messaging application. Johnson shared advice with the undercover officer on the grooming and sexual exploitation of children, made claims that he had sexually abused children, and shared child pornography with the undercover officer.
Federal agents executed a search warrant at Johnson’s residence on July 14, 2020. Johnson told agents that he shared child pornography with about 25 other users. Some the files, Johnson told investigators, included depictions of bondage and of prepubescent girls being raped. Investigators seized two laptop computers, which contained at least 164 files that contained child pornography.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David Luna. It was investigated by the FBI, the Independence, Mo., Police Department, and the Western Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force.