By Joe Beck
A California man guilty of molesting a child in Frederick County was sentenced to 80 years, or what amounted to life in prison, last week in U.S. District Court on 13 child pornography counts.
Judge Michael Urbanski imposed the sentence on John Stuart Dowell after hearing testimony that Dowell's collection of child pornography exceeded 70,000 images and videos, according to a sentencing memorandum filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Healey.
Dowell, 47, of Santa Cruz, Calif., pleaded guilty in October to 12 counts of using a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing pornographic videos and one count of transportation of child pornography.
Authorities accused Dowell of repeated sexual abuse of a 3-year-old girl and filming the abuse. A computer forensic investigation found that Dowell also produced two separate videos of a 5-year-old girl engaged in explicit sexual activity.
The sentencing memorandum from Assistant U.S. Attorney Nancy Healey called Dowell's actions "despicable and egregious."
"The defendant betrayed the family of his two minor victims when he abused, molested and exploited them for his own sexual gratification while they were under his care and control," Healey wrote. "Indeed the evidence in this case makes clear that the defendant focused his attention on the youngest, 3-year-old victim, likely because she was easier to manipulate and bend to his will than the 5-year-old, who would have reported the abuse more readily than the younger victim."
Dowell's attorney, R. Darren Bostic of Harrisonburg, called for a sentence of less than life imprisonment in his sentencing memorandum. The memorandum included several letters from people who knew Dowell from when he lived in the Los Angeles area. Dowell was raised in Stephens City, where he also graduated from high school.
Matt Faw of Los Angeles wrote that he first met Dowell in 2000 through their mutual interests in folk dance, rock climbing and bamboo sword play.
"When I heard the news of John's arrest, I was entirely flabbergasted, as he never made any comment or action that suggested that he would be interested in or capable of doing such an act," Faw said. "It was hard to believe the charges I heard about were about the John Dowell that I knew, because nothing in my personal experience suggested that outcome."
The investigation leading to Dowell's arrest involved a long list of law enforcement agencies that included the FBI, Immigration Customs and Enforcement, the San Jose, Calif. Police Department, Danish law enforcement officers, Interpol and the Northern Virginia-District of Columbia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org