Department of Justice
Robert D. Thorson

Former Des Moines man sentenced to 27 years in prison for production and possession of child pornography

Made videos of sexually explicit conduct with sleeping children

information from the Department of Justice

A former Des Moines, Washington man was sentenced today in U.S. District court in Seattle to 27 years in prison and lifetime of supervised release for producing and possessing images of child pornography, announced U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. ROBERT D. THORSON, 58, was convicted following a four-day trial in February 2017. THORSON was arrested May 30, 2016, after his girlfriend called Des Moines police after finding sexually explicit images of minors on THORSON’s phone. At sentencing, Chief U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez said, “This is one of the most egregious cases this Court has handled. . . Mr. Thorson repaid the kindness shown to him [by two by sexually abusing and exploiting the children.”

“This defendant sought relationships with women so that he could molest their children, said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “He insinuated himself into the lives of the families he preyed on and when his crimes were discovered, he threatened them from prison to try to get the charges against him dropped. There is no question that the public – and especially our kids – are safer as a result of the lengthy sentence imposed in his case.”

According to records in the case and testimony at trial, THORSON’s girlfriend examined his phone looking for evidence he was seeing other women. Instead she found images of THORSON molesting young girls who resided in her home. The woman called Des Moines Police and THORSON was arrested. When investigators examined THORSON’s electronic devices they found images showing THORSON disturbing the clothing and bedding of sleeping children so he could make sexually explicit photos. THORSON’s clothing, tattoos and body parts appear in some of the images. THORSON’s electronic devices also contained images from a hidden camera installed in a bathroom at the home that captured minor children using the bathroom and the shower. The electronic evidence presented at trial revealed THORSON preyed on a second family when he briefly stayed in their home in 2015.

In addition to the images of child molestation that he produced, THORSON also had images of other children being raped and molested that he collected from the internet. THORSON’s electronic devices had 22 videos and 40 images of children being raped by adults. One two-hour video THORSON had on his electronic devices shows the rape of a 4 year old child by an adult male.

While THORSON was in custody he sent letters to his former girlfriend threatening her and demanding she change her statements to police.

“Not only did Thorson violate innocent children as they slept for his own sexual gratification, he used threats and coercion in an attempt to cover up these heinous acts,” said Brad Bench, special agent in charge of HSI Seattle. “In partnership with local law enforcement, investigators successfully presented the evidence needed for a jury to bring justice to this predator.”

The case was investigated by the Des Moines Police Department and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephen Hobbs and Special Assistant United States Attorney Cecelia Gregson. Ms. Gregson is Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney specially designated to prosecute child exploitation cases in federal court.

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