On May 12, 2020, Douglas Stephen Groover of Water Valley, Texas was sentenced to 60 years in prison for the production of child pornography. After his arrest, Groover admitted to sexually abusing at least three minors over the course of several years, as well as possessing photos and videos depicting child pornography.
Groover pled guilty to child pornography charges in May of 2018. Following Groover’s trial, U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix of the Northern Texas District delivered the six-decade sentence in addition to a lifetime term of supervised release and a restitution award of over $50,000.
Details of the Groover Case
Groover was found with over 2,000 files of child pornography in his possession. Included in the files were over 400 photos and 20 videos that Groover produced. Other files in Groover’s possession contained depictions of sadism, bestiality, and the sexual abuse of toddlers, infants, and other minors. Groover’s case was investigated by the Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Homeland Security’s Investigation Units. Additional assistance in the investigation came from the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) criminal division. Specifically, the DOJ’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section High Technology Investigative Unit provided assistance.
“This case shows the coordination between all levels of government required to investigate and prosecute child pornography and the sexual abuse of minors across the country,” said Attorney Benson Varghese, managing partner of Varghese Summersett PLLC who is not affiliated with the case but has defended many similar accisations. “As technology increases and more people become familiar with the internet, the prevalence of child pornography has increased. As a result, government agencies and organizations have increased resources to coordinate, investigate, and prosecute individuals.”
The investigation and prosecution against Douglas Groover was part of the DOJ’s Project Safe Childhood (PSC), that aims to bring together local, state, and federal resources to identify and apprehend individuals that engage in the exploitation of children across the United States. PSC also increases awareness regarding the sexual exploitation of minors and offers resources to victims of sexual abuse.
How Has Technology Affected Child Pornography Investigations?
PSC and similar organizations have been increasingly responding to internet and technology based sexual exploitation. The sexual abuse of minors has grown significantly in previous decades. Between 2004 and 2019, sexual abuse files investigated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children increased from 450,000 files to over 70 million. Additionally, the non-profit organization Thorn reported that a majority of child pornography victims they encounter were being advertised online.
United States Laws on Child Pornography
United States Code defines child pornography as any sexually explicit visual depiction of a person under the age of 18. This includes photos and videos, as well as created or altered sexually explicit digital images that are indistinguishable from an actual minor. Child pornography charges may still apply if a minor is not engaging in sexual activity. It is also illegal to force or persuade a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the creation of child pornography.