ANCHORAGE—United States Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced that John Mark Felton, 48 a U.K. citizen who most recently resided in Boston, Massachusetts, was sentenced on April 5, 2012 in federal court in Anchorage to 252 months’ imprisonment and a lifetime of supervised release. Felton pled guilty to traveling within the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2423(b). Chief United States District Court Judge Ralph Beistline imposed the sentence on Felton.
Assistant United States Attorney Kimberly Sayers-Fay prosecuted the case against Felton. Sayers-Fay advised that Felton, a British citizen, is a trained physician who was working and living in Boston. In 2008, Felton encountered an undercover Homeland Security Investigations agent in an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) channel dedicated to discussing sex with young boys. In his first chat with the undercover agent, Felton proposed traveling to Alaska to have sex with the undercover’s 5-year-old grandson. Thereafter, there was more than a year lag in communications. Then, on September 18, 2009, the undercover HSI agent received a message from Felton stating that he “missed our horny chats about our shared interests.” Felton once again raised the prospect of traveling to Alaska to rape the 5-year-old, stating, “You just say the word and I’d come.” Following further conversations, on November 16, 2009, Felton arrived in Anchorage from Boston, having traveled that distance in order to facilitate his planned sexual abuse and rape of a boy whom he then believed to be 6 years old.
Subsequent investigation revealed that Felton’s sexual interest in children was longstanding. Felton began acquiring child sexual exploitation images in the U.K. in the 1990s and later brought his collection with him when he moved to the United States. At the time of his arrest, Felton’s collection of child sexual exploitation images included 1,276 images and at least 71 videos of boys and girls being sexually abused. In IRC chat logs that Felton preserved, Felton admitted to molesting a 15-year-old boy and “messing with younger” children. The court noted, however, that there was no solid evidence that Felton had had prior contact sexual offenses with prepubescent children and that the polygraph results on this point were conflicting.
At the sentencing, Felton himself gave credence to the “spiral of sexual abuse” as described by Dr. Joe Sullivan. Felton commented that conversing in the IRC chat rooms dedicated to sexual abuse of children normalized the behavior and thereby diminished his guilt and fear concerning it. Felton commented that he thought such IRC chatrooms should be banned for that reason.
In announcing the 21-year sentence of imprisonment, Judge Beistline noted that Felton’s many humanitarian accomplishments as a doctor were strikingly at odds with the crime he attempted to commit: raping a 5-year-old child. The court observed that Felton was a sort of “Jekyll and Hyde” character who had done much for society while simultaneously planning to prey on its most vulnerable. Felton acknowledged this incongruity, although he was at a loss to explain it.
In imposing the sentence, Judge Beistline stated that he appreciated the psychological risk assessment of Felton prepared by Dr. Sullivan. Judge Beistline credited Dr. Sullivan’s belief that Felton “probably” would have gone through with the crime if he had not been prevented, as well as Sullivan’s conclusion that Felton was a good candidate for rehabilitation if he obtains intensive sex offender treatment in a quality program. Judge Beistline’s sentence strongly recommended that Felton be placed in a prison where such treatment is offered.
As part of his sentence, Felton agreed to pay $20,000 to an Alaska non-profit that deals with child victims of sexual abuse and to pay $5,000 to the victim depicted in the “Vicky” series of child sexual exploitation images that were among Felton’s collection.
Because he is a citizen of the United Kingdom, Felton may pursue transfer to a U.K. prison pursuant to an international prisoner transfer treaty between the United States and the United Kingdom.
Ms. Loeffler commends the work of agents with Homeland Security Investigations, whose undercover work culminated in Felton’s conviction, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Anchorage Police Department, who significantly advanced the investigatory effort.