Federal Sex Crimes Send Two Men To Prison; One For 45 Years - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Federal Sex Crimes Send Two Men To Prison; One For 45 Years

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A Jackson County man stood before a federal judge on Wednesday to learn his fate.

28 year old Donyel Fitts pled guilty in May to three criminal charges related to the production of child pornography.

News 13 was in the courtroom as Fitt's sentence was delivered by US District Judge Richard Smoak.

In a yellow Bay County Jail jumpsuit, Fitts was silent learning he'd spend the next 45 years in federal prison.

On June 21st of last year, he persuaded a child to engage in sexually explicit conduct so that he could take pictures of the minor.

Fitts admitted he took videos and photographs of himself engaged in sex acts with a 4-year-old child.

Now, in addition to his 45 year prison sentence without the possibility of parole, Fitts will then be under supervised release for the rest of his life.

Resident agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations Panama City, Scott Springer, said Fitt's sentence sends a message to child predators: your actions will not stand.

"The message to people who do this is, "we will find you, we will seek you out, we will hunt you down, and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law. I think it's important for the individuals who engage in sexual activity with minors and exploit children to take notice of today's actions in court," said Springer.

This case was brought forward as part of "Project Safe Childhood"; a Department of Justice initiative to combat a growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse.

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An Alabama man convicted of attempted online enticement of a minor will spend the next ten years of his life in federal prison.

40 year old Thomas Lee of Gadsden, Alabama was arrested as part of an extensive sex sting operation in Bay County last summer, dubbed "Operation Riptide."

Wednesday's sentencing closes one more chapter in dealing with child predators, according to Homeland Security Panama City, who took three of the twelve cases to federal court.

Lee was on vacation in Panama City Beach in 2012 when he came in contact online with a law enforcement officer posing as a 14 year boy.

In April, Lee was found guilty of attempting to persuade that "child" in sexual activity. Now, he will spend 121 months in federal prison and will pay a $1000 dollar fine.

"Operation Riptide" was a joint effort from several state and federal agencies alongside the Bay County Sheriff's Office to crack down on child predators; the worse offenders, like Lee, facing a much harsher fate according to HSI Agent in Charge, Scott Springer.

"In other words, we took three of the cases collectively with the other agencies, presented them to the US Attorney's office and they were prosecuted on a federal level. Lee was one of those cases. I think the sentence is appropriate. We want the public to know that HSI will work tirelessly to track these folks down and prosecute them if they're involved in this kind of activity," said Springer.

Lee will be under 7 years supervised release following that 121 month sentence. Additionally, he is ordered to participate in a sexual offender treatment program and register as a sex offender.