A federal appeals court Wednesday upheld the conviction and 50-year prison sentence of a man who infiltrated girls’ social-media accounts and then demanded that the girls send sexually explicit images to regain access to the accounts.
A Miami jury in 2019 convicted Joseph Isaiah Woodson Jr., of Ashburn Va., on a series of charges, including producing child pornography, distributing child pornography, and sending extortionate interstate communications.
The ruling Wednesday by a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said, for example, that Woodson in 2017 contacted a 14-year-old girl through Snapchat and tricked her into giving him her password. He changed the password and sent a text message to the girl directing her to go onto the Kik messaging application if she wanted to regain access to the Snapchat account.
He then demanded that she send sexually explicit videos and photos, according to the ruling. Less than two months later, Woodson demanded more sexually explicit images.
When the girl refused, he distributed pornographic images to her followers on Instagram, according to the ruling. In the appeal, Woodson contended that statements he made to police should have been suppressed because officers did not read Miranda warnings against self-incrimination during a conversation in a police van outside his home.
Also, he contended that the 50-year sentence was excessive. But the appeals court rejected the arguments. “Woodson committed his crimes as a faceless username lurking behind a cell phone screen to impose horrors on young girls for his own pleasure,” said the 25-page opinion, written by Judge Britt Grant and joined fully by Judge Elizabeth Branch.
“He and his team victimized hundreds of children by hijacking their social media accounts and extorting them for pornography. His attempts to hide from the consequences of his actions — by challenging both the admission of his confessions and the reasonableness of his sentence — fail.”
Judge Andrew Brasher agreed with upholding the conviction and sentence but wrote a concurring opinion.