DOJ: Bland County man sentenced to 50 years for production of child porn, illegal firearm possession

New River Valley News

(Photo: Courtesy Southwest Virginia Regional Jail Authority)

ABINGDON, Va. (WFXR) — Last week, a Bland County man was sentenced to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to more than a dozen counts of producing child pornography at his home, as well as illegally possessing a firearm as a previously-convicted felon.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), members of the Bland County Sheriff’s Office and Virginia State Police executed a state search warrant at the home of 42-year-old William Dean Blankenship on Feb. 12 after receiving information that he had engaged in sexual acts with children and possessed child pornography.

During that search, authorities reportedly found a firearm, a cell phone, and other electronic devices that belonged to Blankenship.

Officials say that Blankenship’s phone contained more than 50 video files of child pornography that he produced, which depicted him engaging in sexual intercourse with two minors.

The DOJ says investigators learned that Blankenship routinely coerced and enticed the two minors to engage in sexual activity with him and with each other after he gave them narcotics and other controlled substances. 

According to the department, Blankenship’s abuse began when the minors were approximately 13 and 14 years old.

In late September, Blankenship reportedly pleaded guilty to 17 counts of production of child pornography and one count of illegal possession of a firearm after a prior felony conviction.

Officials previously told WFXR News that Blankenship was scheduled to be sentenced on Friday, Dec. 17 and faced 20 to 50 years in federal prison, per his plea agreement.

After considering U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors, a federal district court judge decided on a 50-year sentence for Blankenship, the DOJ announced Tuesday.

“Today’s lengthy sentence shows the commitment of the Department of Justice to protecting children from the type of abuse and coercive exploitation this defendant exhibited over several years,” U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh stated. “My Office will continue to investigate and prosecute all those who prey on our most vulnerable victims. I am grateful to the work of the Department of Homeland Security and the Virginia State Police for their work on this case.”

“Now, Mr. Blankenship will begin to pay for the horrific atrocities he committed,” said Ray Villanueva, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Washington, D.C. “This sentencing serves as another example to anyone who seeks to victimize our children, that we will work tirelessly to bring them to justice. HSI was proud to have partnered the Virginia State Police, as well as the Bland County and Giles County Sheriff’s Offices on this case.”

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