The U.S. Attorney's Office of the Western District of Missouri issued the following press release on Thursday, December 15, 2022.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – A former youth minister in Joplin, Mo., was sentenced in federal court today for exchanging pornographic images and videos with a child victim.
Nicholas Lane Stephens, 25, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge M. Douglas Harpool to six years in federal prison without parole. The court also sentenced Stephens to 15 years of supervised release following incarceration.
On March 15, 2022, Stephens pleaded guilty to receiving and distributing child pornography. Stephens was formerly the youth minister at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Joplin.
The investigation began when a Children’s Division investigator received a hotline call reporting that Stephens, a volunteer at the church, was involved in inappropriate relationships with minor females at the church, including the 17-year-old victim identified in court documents as “Jane Doe.”
Jane Doe told investigators she sent nude images to Stephens via Snapchat in December 2019. Stephens sent Jane Doe several pornographic images of himself, as well as pornographic FaceTime videos. Examiners discovered a dozen images and one video of child pornography of Jane Doe on Stephens’s cell phone. There were also numerous messages between Jane Doe and Stephens.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ami Harshad Miller. It was investigated by the FBI, the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force, and the Joplin, Mo., Police Department.