By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
A California man pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court to one count of transmitting child pornography online and 12 counts of filming child pornography knowing or having reason to know it would be transmitted across state lines or beyond U.S. borders.
John Stuart Dowell, 46, of Santa Cruz, entered the plea before Judge Michael F. Urbanski without making any agreement with the prosecution for reduced charges or sentencing recommendations.
Authorities accused Dowell of making pornographic videos with a 3-year-old girl and a 5-year-old girl at a home in Frederick County sometime between late 2011 through early 2012.
He was arrested in California after an investigation triggered by a tip given to law enforcement officials by his sister in Jacksonville, Fla. She gave one of the videos to agents in the FBI's Jacksonville office on Oct. 19, according to an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Harvey E. Barlow.
Court records say agents from the Northern Virginia-District of Columbia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force visited the Frederick County home where family members identified the victims and Dowell.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Healey spent part of the hearing reading a statement of facts into the record describing in graphic detail a series of sex acts Dowell performed with the victims as part of the production of the videos.
Dowell sat glumly in his chair through the proceeding. He answered most questions from Urbanski with no more than a few words.
He said he was raised in Stephens City, where he graduated from high school and went on to attend five years of college. He told Urbanski he switched his majors from physics to psychology during that time. The last school he attended was the University of Washington, he said.
"How do you feel today?" Urbanski asked him at one point as the judge tried to determine whether Dowell was mentally and physically fit enough to understand the meaning of pleading guilty.
"Relatively well, considering the circumstances," Dowell replied.
Dowell was led away in handcuffs back to jail at the conclusion of the hearing. As he began to exit, a lone man in the back of the courtroom called out his name and Dowell turned back, smiled and nodded to him.
Urbanski scheduled a sentencing hearing for Jan. 16.