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Man sentenced for lewd images

A Suffolk man was sentenced Wednesday to 12 years in prison and 20 years of supervised release for receiving images of child pornography.

According to court documents, Christopher Howerton, 33, was identified by both the Virginia Beach Police Department and Southern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force as having distributed images of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct from 2016 through 2017.

According to a statement of facts filed in federal court for the Eastern District of Virginia, a detective with the Virginia Beach Police Department discovered Howerton’s activity while working online in an undercover capacity in 2017. An IP address traced to him was sharing files depicting images of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct through peer-to-peer file-sharing software, the document stated.

In 2016, a Southern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children officer also was able to download files showing explicit conduct involving minors from IP addresses traced to Howerton.

Law enforcement executed a search warrant at Howerton’s Suffolk residence on Dec. 19, 2017. Howerton admitted to using the Internet to search for and watch minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct, the document stated. A search of his computer turned up numerous such files.

Howerton pleaded guilty to one count of receipt of images of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct. The offense had a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum sentence of 20 years.

Howerton also was ordered to pay $7,000 in restitution. The court recommended that he be placed in an intensive sex offender treatment program and undergo a full mental health evaluation and counseling.