A Springfield, Missouri, man was sentenced in federal court Wednesday for video recording his sexual abuse of a 15-year-old victim.
Daren Watts, 28, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge M. Douglas Harpool to 20 years in federal prison without parole. Watts will be required to register as a sex offender upon his release from prison and will be subject to federal and state sex offender registration requirements, which may apply throughout his life.
On June 17, 2020, Watts pleaded guilty to the sexual exploitation of a child.
According to court documents, the investigation began on June 28, 2018, when Springfield police officers responded to the sexual assault of a 15-year-old victim, whose mother had identified Watts to a Children’s Division caseworker. Both the victim and Watts admitted to juvenile authorities that they had engaged in sexual intercourse.
Law enforcement received a Cybertipline Report from Facebook, reporting that Watts had sent messages to the victim soliciting nude photographs. When investigators searched the contents of his Facebook account, they found 20 videos of Watts engaged in sexual acts with the victim. There were also multiple messages exchanged between Watts and the victim discussing their sexual encounters.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney James J. Kelleher. It was investigated by the Springfield, Mo., Police Department, the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force, and the FBI.
Project Safe Neighborhoods
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is partnering with federal, state, and local law enforcement to specifically identify criminals responsible for significant violent crime in the Western District of Missouri. A centerpiece of this effort is Project Safe Neighborhoods, a program that brings together all levels of law enforcement to reduce violent crime and make neighborhoods safer for everyone. Project Safe Neighborhoods is an evidence-based program that identifies the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develops comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, Project Safe Neighborhoods focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.