Former youth pastor guilty of child pornography
Press release from the U.S. Department of Justice: A 23-year-old former youth pastor has pleaded guilty to child pornography violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced U.S. Attorney John M. Bales today. Trevion Lechay Ethridge, of Newton, Texas, pleaded guilty to production of child pornography today before U.S. District Judge Ron Clark. According to information presented in court, from November 2012 to March 2013, while Ethridge was the youth pastor at a Newton County church, he persuaded a minor to video and photograph pornographic images and to send the pornography to Ethridge via smart phone. Ethridge was indicted by a federal grand jury on Oct. 3, 2013. Trial began in this case on May 12, 2014 and was recessed after two days. Trial resumed on June 3, 2014, at which time Ethridge changed his plea to guilty and under oath, admitted to sending the minor pornographic images and videos of himself and enticing the minor to send pornographic images and videos in return. 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 United States 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. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov. Ethridge faces a minimum of 15 years and up to 30 years in federal prison. A sentencing date has not been set. This case is being investigated by the Homeland Security Investigations, the Newton Police Department and the Beaumont Police Department and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Randall L. Fluke and Lauren Gaston.