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Richland man who was extradited from Kazakhstan pleads guilty to child pornography charge

UPDATED: Fri., Sept. 24, 2021

A Richland man who was working abroad in Kazakhstan when federal authorities found hundreds of sexually explicit images and videos of minors in his home pleaded guilty Thursday to a child pornography charge.

Trent Drexel Howard, 50, is in custody of the Benton County Jail pending a sentencing hearing in January. The U.S. Attorney’s Office of Eastern Washington said his extradition in 2020 is the first from Kazakhstan by the United States.

Undercover authorities working with the Justice Department’s Project Safe Childhood received dozens of files from Howard over the internet containing sexually explicit content depicting children, according to court records. They obtained a warrant, and found devices in his home with explicit images of 14 children dating from March 2008 to June 2019.

Prosecutors said Howard used cameras hidden in his bathroom and bedroom.

Howard was arrested by Kazakhstani authorities at a hotel where he was working. He argued in court that he had not fled the country, nor had he tried to hide from police while in the country.

A trial had been scheduled for next month in Richland. Court documents filed Thursday charged Howard with a single count of attempted production of child pornography, a felony carrying a minimum sentence of 15 years. It also requires registration as a sex offender.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said in a news release that the parties had agreed to a 23-year prison sentence. A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 6.

“Production of child pornography is a despicable crime,” Acting U.S. Attorney Joseph Harrington said in a statement. “The United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington will continue to aggressively prosecute those who exploit children. I commend our state, local and federal law enforcement partners who investigated this case.”

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