Aaron D. Sutherland, 28, formerly of Fort Stewart, Georgia, was sentenced to serve 180 months in prison to be followed by 25 years of supervised release and $250,000 restitution by U.S. District Judge Louis Sands on June 22 after he previously pleaded guilty to production of child pornography. In addition, Sutherland will have to register as a sex offender for life upon his release from federal prison. There is no parole.
“Producing sexual assault material of children is an intolerable crime that will not go unpunished,” said U.S. Attorney Peter D. Leary. “Law enforcement at every level will pursue justice when adults sexually entice, abuse or harm a minor.”
“Cases like this underscore the need to be careful when our kids use the internet or social media; Sutherland used the internet to assist him in exploiting an innocent child. Thankfully, he was caught and will no longer be able to hurt children,” said Special Agent in Charge Katrina Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “Protecting our most vulnerable populations from exploitation is one of HSI’s most important missions and we are fortunate to have great working relationships with our law enforcement partners that provide invaluable assistance.”
“This case is another example of the fruitful results that occur when we combine the resources of local, state and federal law enforcement partners to get predators off the street,” said Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk.
According to court documents, Sutherland admitted he began communicating with a 13-year-old female while he was on active duty for the U.S. Army at Fort Stewart in Feb. 2021. Sutherland enticed the victim to send multiple nude images and videos of a sexual nature and asked to meet the child to engage in sexual activity. The minor victim’s mother discovered her child messaging an adult male in April 2021 after she observed her child acting strangely and confiscated her phone. In the messages, Sutherland stated the victim’s age. The mother reported the crime to authorities, and Sutherland was arrested on May 3, 2021. Sutherland provided law enforcement with his secret image vault where he saved all of the pictures and videos of the child.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the DOJ’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
The case was investigated by the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Katelyn Semales prosecuted the case.