SALT LAKE CITY — A former Latter-day Saint bishop admitted in federal court Thursday to having child pornography on his cellphone.
Timothy James Hallows, 62, of Kaysville, pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography in an agreement with federal prosecutors. He admitted to having images of prepubescent children being sexually assaulted by adults on his cellphone and sending them to a woman in the Philippines last November.
Hallows faces up to 20 years in prison. A sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.
Hallows was bishop of the Wellington Ward in the Kaysville Utah Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he was arrested in October and later charged with eight counts of sexual exploitation of a minor in 2nd District Court in Davis County.
The state charges were dismissed June 29 after the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Davis County Attorney’s Office decided to pursue the case in federal court.
Hallows “admitted to distributing child sexual abuse material” on Skype and to sexual gratification to prepubescent children, according to a police affidavit filed in state court.
“Hallows stated the children are not real, and provided several incidents of justification and rationalization for the conduct,” a Davis County sheriff’s deputy wrote in the affidavit. Investigators noted that Hallows held a special position of trust as a bishop, including “unfettered” access to children in his congregation and in private.
U.S. Attorney John Huber earlier said federal and county prosecutors regularly work together on child exploitation cases to find the best venue to prosecute the case.
“County prosecutors and law enforcement officers are very experienced in investigating and prosecuting these cases, but they can be limited, candidly, by low state sentences,” Huber said. “The tools we have in federal court can bring very significant, very appropriate sentences. In this case, it made sense to prosecute the defendant in federal court.”
Federal judges consider a number of factors when imposing a sentence for possession of child pornography, including the number of images, use of a computer, distribution of the images, the defendant’s abuse of a position of trust to hide the offense, the ages of the children in the images and the defendant’s criminal history, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Multiple counts do not change the sentence because the court is aware of each image the defendant possessed regardless of the number of criminal charges.
Microsoft Online Operations filed a complaint on Oct. 6 with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that a user uploaded and made publicly available child sexual exploitation material to or from a Skype account. Phoenix police initially investigated the cases because the IP address tracked to a Holiday Inn in Arizona. Investigators determined it belonged to Hallows.
A search warrant was executed at Hallows’ home in Kaysville. The affidavit says investigators located “thousands of images of pornography, including many images of child sexual abuse.”
Eric Hawkins, a spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days Saints, called the allegations serious and deeply troubling after Hallows’ arrest last October.
“When local leaders learned of these allegations, this individual was immediately removed from any position that would place him in close contact with youth or children. This is done to ensure the safety of others and to allow this individual to address these serious allegations,” he said in a prepared statement.
Hawkins said the church has no tolerance for abuse of any kind, including child pornography, and teaches its members and leaders that such behavior is offensive to God and to his church.