POCATELLO — An East Idaho man and woman have been sentenced to serve a combined four decades in federal prison after pleading guilty earlier this year to producing child pornography involving a 4-year-old girl.
U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill sentenced Joseph Lavern Harris, 32, of Rigby, Tuesday at the U.S. Courthouse in Pocatello to serve 25 years in prison for sexually exploiting a minor child, U.S. Attorney Bart M. Davis announced in a Wednesday press release.
Winmill also sentenced Harris’ former girlfriend, Elizabeth Dawn Evans, 28, of Rigby, in July to serve 15 years in prison after she admitted to assisting Harris in sexually abusing the 4-year-old girl, Davis announced via a press release last month.
A federal grand jury indicted Harris and Evans on one count each of sexual exploitation of a minor child on March 27, 2018, after the 4-year-old girl was taken to the Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center in Idaho Falls, which resulted in the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office discovering the former couple had made pornographic photos of the child, according to court records.
Court records state that sometime between December 2017 and February 2018 both Harris and Evans “did knowingly employ, use, persuade, induce, entice and coerce a minor child … born in 2013 … to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing any visual depiction of such conduct.”
According to a probable cause affidavit, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office conducted a search warrant on three phones in Harris and Evans’ possession. While investigating one of the phones, authorities discovered a picture depicting the child performing a sex act on Harris.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office also discovered a list in Harris’ home that identified people he wanted to have sex with. The 4-year-old girl was No. 5 on the list. Harris confirmed that it was his list and that he had sent the request to an older woman. Harris also told police that he wanted to be with the 4-year-old child when she turns of age.
Evans had also come under scrutiny after she sent a nude photo to an older woman asking the woman to have sex with her and Harris.
Evans admitted in court she took photos of the 4-year-old girl engaged in sex acts with Harris. Both Harris and Evans said they were under the influence of narcotics while making the photos. Harris first denied it was him in the photos, but later said he could tell it was him based on a tattoo. He said he could not remember the incident.
Initially, Harris and Evans both faced charges at the state level, but those charges were dismissed when Harris and Evans were indicted by a federal grand jury.
Harris originally faced one count of lewd conduct with a minor under the age of 16, one count of sexual exploitation of a child by enticing or permitting to engage or be used for sexual material and sexual exploitation of a child by willfully possessing or accessing sexual exploitative material.
Evans was originally charged with aiding, abetting or encouraging lewd conduct and sexual exploitation of a child by enticing or permitting to engage or be used for sexual material.
Both faced up to life in prison if convicted of the federal sexual exploitation of a minor charges. Harris pleaded guilty to the federal sexual exploitation of a child charge on March 26 and Evans pleaded guilty to the same charge on March 15.
In addition to prison time, Harris and Evans will have to register as sex offenders, Evans must serve 10 years of probation after her release and Harris must serve a lifetime of probation following his prison sentence.
At sentencing, Winmill also ordered Harris and Evans to forfeit the cell phones used in the commission of the sex crimes.
The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations in Idaho Falls and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.
As part of Project Safe Childhood, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Idaho and the Idaho Attorney General’s Office partner to marshal federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims.
For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. For more information about internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab “resources.”
The Post Register contributed to this report.