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South Jordan man sentenced to 15 years for paying minors $30K for nudes

Sep 28, 2023, 8:58 AM

A South Jordan man was sentenced in federal court Wednesday to 15 years in federal prison for offer...

A South Jordan man was sentenced in federal court Wednesday to 15 years in federal prison for offering approximately 200 Utah girls money for nude photos, and then paying tens of thousands to 27 girls who agreed. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

(Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A South Jordan man was sentenced in federal court Wednesday to 15 years in federal prison for offering approximately 200 Utah girls money for nude photos, and then paying tens of thousands to 27 girls who agreed.

Jesse Allan Knight pleaded guilty on Feb. 13 to felony charges of production of child pornography, along with two counts of human trafficking of a minor. He was previously charged in 3rd District Court in October 2021, but the charges were dismissed and refiled at the federal level.

Knight took an opportunity in court Wednesday to apologize for what he’d done and promised to change his life.

“I don’t know how to adequately express the sorrow, the pain and the regret of my actions that have led me here today. I’m deeply sorry. I mean that from the depths of my soul,” Knight told Judge Tena Campbell.

He said the best way he can make things right is to change his life and his behavior.

“I will give my life to the pursuit of changing who I was into a man of virtue and integrity, and to live a chaste and moral life,” Knight said. “I will do all that is asked of me and more to ensure my recovery.”

When filed at the state level, charging documents said Knight had contacted girls on social media to ask them for sexually explicit photos. Knight paid roughly $30,000 to girls for pictures, including $5,000 to one girl, charges state.

Joey Lynn Blanch, representing the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said during Wednesday’s sentencing that most of the girls were around age 17. Charges said he paid to receive photos of a 3-year-old child.

“If the underage girl refused, Knight would pressure the child until she agreed to send him the images,” charges state. “Several underage girls throughout the state of Utah were positively identified as receiving money from Knight for sexually explicit photos.”

Knight also sent some of the girls photos of his genitals and told them he wanted to engage in sexual acts with them, but he said he never actually met with any of the girls, according to charges.

“I recognize the severity of my crimes,” Knight said Wednesday. “The rest of my life will not be wasted, especially my time incarcerated. This is my promise to you, myself and the world.”

Blanch and defense attorney Edward Brass both advocated during Wednesday’s sentencing for the 15-year sentence over a life sentence.

“I think that he’s not irredeemable. He’s broken, he has issues that need to be addressed, … but a custodial setting would be good enough for him, under these circumstances,” Brass said. “I think 15 years is plenty of time to do that.”

Blanch said she wasn’t excusing the gravity of Knight’s crime but feels that a life sentence is “too strict,” since he gave a full confession, and that most of his victims, at age 17, were close to the legal age.

“There are more victims than are even discussed in the simple count of conviction. He’s admitted there are more victims out there and that he attempted to get many, many more,” Blanche said. “But we do think that 15 years is appropriate, as opposed to life.”

She added that while the girls were compliant with Knight’s requests, they could not legally consent because of their age and many of them said they didn’t want to go to trial since they would have to testify against Knight.

“We’re talking about victims who would very much like this to be over,” Blanch said. “They were certainly consulted when we talked about this plea offer.”

Campbell sentenced Knight to 15 years in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, recommending that he serve in either Littleton, Colorado, or Tucson, Arizona, to be close for family visitation. Eleven family members and friends attended the sentencing Wednesday to support Knight.

Upon Knight’s release, Campbell ordered him to be supervised for life and to register as a sex offender in every state he lives or works in.

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South Jordan man sentenced to 15 years for paying minors $30K for nudes