U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced that Dennis Weston, 55, of Anchorage, was sentenced yesterday by U.S. District Judge Sharon L. Gleason to serve four years in federal prison, followed by 10 years supervised release, on one count of sexual exploitation of a child – possession of child pornography. Weston pleaded guilty as charged in October 2019.
According to court documents, in April 2017, Weston responded to an online advertisement and began a year-long dialogue with an undercover FBI agent regarding the exploitation of the fictional child named “Becky” that was referenced in the post, among other child exploitation topics. Weston communicated with the undercover agent using his cell phone, and called himself “John.” The investigation revealed that “John” was actually Weston, who at that time was working as the Deputy Director of the State of Alaska Department of Juvenile Justice, and in that capacity, served as the superintendent of McLaughlin Youth Center.
During a search of Weston’s residence, a laptop was seized that revealed 22 images depicting child sexual exploitation, and evidence that Weston had accessed the so-called “dark web” by using a Tor browser to search for images of child exploitation. Of the 22 images depicting a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct recovered from Weston’s computer, ten of the images featured children under the age of 12.
At the sentencing hearing, Judge Gleason noted that Mr. Weston had abused the trust of the community, and that the sentence was intended to convey the fact that “all of us in this society are accountable to the law.”
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducted the investigation, with assistance from the Anchorage Police Department (APD), and State of Alaska Department of Juvenile Justice, leading to the successful prosecution of this case. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Alexander.
This case is being brought as part of Project Safe Childhood. In May 2006, DOJ launched Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices, Project Safe Childhood combines federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.