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Former Cape attorney charged with sexually exploiting a child

By Staff | Oct 16, 2013

A former Cape Coral attorney is accused of sexually exploiting two boys between 2009 and 2011.

John Rex Powell, 41, has been charged with one count of conspiracy to sexually exploit a child and five counts of sexual exploitation of a child by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Indiana. He is scheduled for a jury trial Oct. 28 before U.S. District Court Judge Sara Evans Barker.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steven DeBrota and Brant Cook are handling the case.

Attorneys Kathleen Sweeney and Charles Hayes, in Indianapolis, are representing Powell.

Neither Sweeney nor Hayes returned a message Tuesday seeking comment on the case.

According to court documents, Powell and three other men were involved in an international child exploitation conspiracy that involved a boy between the ages of 5 and 6. Powell and Jason Bettuo, 36, were participants in the scheme, orchestrated by Mark Jonathan Newton, 42, and Peter Truong, 36.

Newton, an American citizen living in Australia, and Truong, an Australian citizen and Newton’s domestic partner, were the legal adoptive parents of the victim. They traveled to the United States and elsewhere with the boy to allegedly meet with other men and record sexual abuse against the boy.

High definition digital cameras were used to document the acts, officials reported.

In one instance, Newton and Truong reportedly allowed Powell to engage in sexual conduct with the boy, and Powell produced child pornography out of the encounter. During a trip to San Francisco, they reportedly let Powell and Bettuo engage in sexual conduct with the victim and produce pornography.

In another instance, Powell traveled to Australia and visited Newton and Truong at their home, according to the documents. He again sexually exploited the child and created child pornography. On another occasion, Powell met them in France and again engaged in sexual conduct with the boy.

He reportedly engaged in sexual acts with the victim in Florida and California, as well.

During the scheme, Newton and Truong allegedly engaged in a conspiracy to transport the child pornography produced during the encounters to individuals around the world, including to people in Anderson, Ind., and Arlington, Va. Powell is alleged to have participated in the porn conspiracy.

Officials reported that it was the trafficking of materials that alerted United States Postal Service inspectors and investigators in Indiana to the case, launching a two-year investigation into the men.

According to the documents, Powell obtained access to a second boy between 2009 and 2011 on multiple occasions, so that he could repeatedly engage in sexually explicit conduct with the child. The boy, who was between the ages of 8 and 9 at the time, was also used to create child pornography.

In June, Newton was sentenced to 40 years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to sexually exploit a child and conspiracy to possess child pornography under an agreement with prosectors.

“For more than one year and across three continents, these men submitted this young child to some of the most heinous acts of exploitation that this office has ever seen,” U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett, of the Southern District of Indiana, said in a prepared statement released upon Newton’s sentencing.

Video recovered allegedly depicts sexual activity involving the boy as young as 22 months.

“Thanks to the tireless work of our Project Safe Childhood team, these men will all face justice here in Indiana, and that young child’s nightmare has thankfully been brought to an end,” Hogsett said.

As of Tuesday, Truong had pleaded guilty and was awaiting sentencing on charges of conspiring to sexually exploit a child and possessing child pornography. He is likely to be sentenced next year.

Officials reported that Bettuo also has pleaded guilty. His sentencing is set for Monday.