Former bishop charged with child porn could see harsher sentence after case moved to federal court

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DAVIS COUNTY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The case of a former church leader who was charged in Davis County with possession of child pornography has been moved to federal court, possibly increasing his sentence if convicted.

Timothy James Hallows admitted to distributing child porn images while using Skype to detectives after they obtained a search warrant for his home back in October 2019. He also admitted he took pictures of children on camping trips while acting as a bishop for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Related: Kaysville bishop accused of distributing child porn

Detectives said the investigation into Hallows travels across state lines and that is how the FBI got involved.

In a press release issued by the Department of Justice, Hallows was charged with one count of possession of child pornography in federal court. He had pleaded not guilty to the charge during his initial court appearance on Friday.

The federal charge was filed on May 8.

Melodie Rydalch, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said their prosecutors and the Davis County Attorney’s Office have worked together to determine the best venue to prosecute the case.

Rydalch said it was determined that Hallows should be tried in the federal court because in child exploitation cases, there are often much more significant penalties available in the federal system.

“These cases, which involve the victimization and exploitation of children, are cases all prosecutors feel strongly about. We work with the Davis County Attorney’s Office regularly on child exploitation cases, along with other county attorneys throughout the state, to find the best venue to seek justice in these cases,” U.S. Attorney John W. Huber said today.

“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. 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,” Huber said.

Federal judges consider multiple factors when sentencing individuals for possession of child pornography.

They include the number of images, use of a computer, distribution of the images, the defendant’s abuse of a position of trust to conceal the offense, the ages of the children in the images, the defendant’s criminal history, the nature and circumstances of the offense, and the characteristics of the defendant.

Hallows was originally facing eight counts of second degree felony sexual exploitation of a minor in Davis County. Each charge, if convicted, he would have faced 1-15 years at the Utah State Prison, which could have been suspended and a different sentence in jail, or just probation could have been imposed.

Related: Utah CEO caught with child porn sentenced to 210 days in jail

Rydalch explained that multiple counts do not change the sentence in federal court because the judge is aware of each image possessed by the defendant regardless of how many counts are charged.

In child exploitation cases, sentences in federal court have a minimum five years with the potential up to life. As part of sentencing, prosecutors also ask the judge to impose a term of supervised release for the defendant following the completion of their sentence.

A change of plea hearing is scheduled for June 30 at 3 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dustin B. Pead. For the time being, Hallows remains in federal custody.

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