Burnsville: John Webb Sentenced For Child Pornography

Repeat Sex Offender, John Webb Powell On Supervised Release Is Sentenced To 24.5 Years For Child Pornography

ASHEVILLE, NC (STL.News) U.S. District Judge Martin Reidinger has sentenced John Webb Powell, 51, of Burnsville, N.C., to 294 months in prison on child pornography charges, announced Dena J. King, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.  In addition to the prison term imposed, Judge Reidinger ordered Powell to serve a lifetime under court supervision upon completion of the prison term and to register as a sex offender.

Ronnie Martinez, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in North Carolina and South Carolina, and Sheriff Shane Hilliard of the Yancey County Sheriff’s Office join U.S. Attorney King in making today’s announcement.

“Powell will spend the next two decades where he belongs: behind bars,” said U.S. Attorney King. “Recidivist sex offenders who prey on vulnerable children pose a serious danger to the community and will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  I commend the investigative efforts of HSI and the Yancey County Sheriff’s Office.  Their work on this case ensured that Powell was brought to justice and will no longer inflict harm upon his victim.”

“As a result of the collaborative work of HSI and its law enforcement partners, Powell’s days of victimizing children have come to an end,” said Special Agent in Charge Martinez.  “As a repeat offender, today’s significance sentence will ensure Powell will no longer pose a threat to children and communities in the region.”

“The Yancey County Sheriff’s Office will always be diligent in our efforts to protect the children of our community from sexual predators,” said Sheriff Hilliard.  “We would like to thank Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their assistance in the investigation and subsequent conviction of this repeat sex offender.”

According to filed court documents and yesterday’s sentencing hearing, in February 2020, Powell was communicating with a minor female via text messages.  Over the course of their communications, Powell solicited and received from the minor, images depicting the minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.  According to the information contained in court documents, Powell also committed repeated sexual assaults against the minor over an extended time period.  A forensic analysis of Powell’s seized cell phone further revealed that Powell had conducted internet searches for images containing child pornography.  At the time of the offense, Powell was registered as a sex offender and was on supervised release for a previous federal offense of possession of child pornography.

On October 18, 2021, Powell pleaded guilty to receiving child pornography.  He is currently in federal custody and will be transferred to the custody of the federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility.

In making today’s announcement, U.S. Attorney King thanked HSI and the Yancey County Sheriff’s Office for their investigation of the case.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville prosecuted the case 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 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.