Baltimore, Maryland: What follows is a press release issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Maryland on Thursday, August 4, 2022.
U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake sentenced Donald Benson, age 42, of Nottingham, Maryland to 18 years in federal prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release, for production of child pornography. Judge Blake also ordered that, upon his release from prison, Benson must register as a sex offender in the places where he resides, where he is an employee, and where he is a student, under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (“SORNA”).
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Erek L. Barron; Acting Special Agent in Charge Ryeshia Holley of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office; Special Agent in Charge James C. Harris of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger; and Chief Melissa R. Hyatt of the Baltimore County Police Department.
According to his guilty plea, on September 18, 2016, while working at a Maryland hospital as a patient sitter, Benson sexually assaulted a 15-year-old female (Victim 1) while she was unconscious. Additionally, Benson took 13 pictures of the sexual assault on Victim 1 and emailed those pictures to his personal email account. Benson used Victim 1’s birthdate as the subject of the email which was also visible on Victim 1’s hospital band in the pictures that Benson produced.
As stated in is plea agreement, in December 2019, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received a report regarding child pornography activity on Benson’s email account. Between August 2015 to December 2019, Benson uploaded 337 files of possible child pornography.
During the investigation into Benson’s criminal conduct, investigators determined that several of the images Benson had emailed himself depicted images of minors being sexually assaulted including the images that Benson captured of Victim 1 while she as in an unconscious state.
On February 6, 2020, investigators executed search warrants at Benson’s residence and on his electronic devices including two cell phones, a CD labeled “Donny An”, and his email accounts. As a result of the executed search warrants, investigators located several images and files of child pornography and a CD that depicted a naked prepubescent female with her legs spread and genitals exposed. This CD contained images of child pornography from 1999 to 2013.
In an interview with law enforcement, Benson informed investigators that he took pictures of Victim 1 while working in an official capacity and while Victim 1 was unconscious. He also informed law enforcement that he took the exploitive pictures of Victim 1 when her father stepped out of the room to take a phone call.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc. For more information about Internet safety education, please visit www.justice.gov/psc and click on the "Resources" tab on the left of the page.
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended the FBI, HSI, the Baltimore County Police Department, and the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office for their work in the investigation. Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mary W. Setzer and Paul Budlow, who prosecuted the case.
For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-md/project-safe-childhood and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.