Courts

North Highlands man inks reworked plea deal following Ninth Circuit toss of child porn conviction

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A North Highlands man earlier this week pled guilty to one federal charge involving child porn as part of a restructured plea deal following a higher court’s reversal of his original conviction.

William Lamar Blessett, appearing via Zoom from USP Lewisburg in Pennsylvania, pled guilty to one count of knowing possession of a visual depiction of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct, according to court records. He faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and a maximum sentence of 20 years.

As The Update first reported, Blessett’s conviction was reversed by Ninth Circuit judges Baker, Collins, and Lee, who found that a set of faulty jury instructions allowed Blessett to be convicted on an interstate nexus element that wasn’t originally presented to a grand jury.

Authorities began investigating Blessett, according to a document outlining probable cause for a search warrant on his house, after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children tipped off the FBI’s Crimes Against Children Task Force that a user with the email 71upyours@gmail.com uploaded 111 files of suspected child porn to Dropbox. The user’s IP address was linked to a home on La Cienega Drive in North Highlands.

The images, reviewed by detectives, included a 6-8 year old child straddling an adult man, two boys engaged in oral sex, and a collage of 65 images depicting children – from 6 months old to 10 years old – engaged in sex acts.

Following a search of the 71upyours gmail account, investigators found a photo of Blessett and his vehicle’s license plate mixed in with photos of child porn. A search of the license plate returned Blessett’s name and address, and detectives reviewed his sprawling criminal history that included prior convictions for possessing child porn – resulting in a lifetime sex offender registry.

Blessett was arrested in 2017 after FBI agents executed the search warrant, seizing several electronic devices that contained over 1,200 images of child porn. Some of the images showed 10-year-old boys having sex, a prepubescent boy being sexually assaulted by an adult man, and a naked boy under 12 tied up with a ball gag in his mouth.

Although he originally fought the charges through a federal public defender, who argued that Blessett didn’t know exactly what images were on his accounts because he shared them with his boyfriend, Blessett elected to plead guilty in order to continue important counseling work at USP Lewisburg, according to the same lawyer.

“Mr. Blessett’s quick decision to plead guilty and accept responsibility demonstrates that he has grown a lot through his time in prison and by his enthusiastic participation in the counseling program at U.S.P. Lewisburg,” Assistant Federal Defender Douglas J. Beevers wrote in a memo to the court about the plea agreement. “Mr. Blessett has a good relationship with his counselor, Dr. Andrea Brockman, and with many of the counseling assistant guards.”

Ethan Biando
Ethan Biando is a freelance journalist from Sacramento. His writing focuses on crime, courts, and policing. Find him on Twitter @ethanb822

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