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Canova man facing federal child porn production charge, state charges still pending

Lee Thames, 25, was indicted in federal court on Jan. 4, months after local charges were filed in Miner County.

The federal courthouse in Sioux Falls
One of South Dakota's United States Federal Courthouses is located at the intersection of 14th Street and Phillips Avenue in Sioux Falls.
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A Canova man who already faces charges for possession of child pornography in South Dakota now faces additional charges in federal court.

Lee Thames, 25, of Canova, was indicted by a federal grand jury on Jan. 4 on one count of production of child pornography. The new federal charge comes as an addition to the 10 counts of possessing child pornography that Thames faces in Miner County .

Both sets of charges stem from an investigation that began in June 2021 when the South Dakota Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force received a tip alleging a Snapchat account contained video and photo files depicting child pornography.

After tracing the IP address from the account associated with the tip, agents with the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation used legal processes to obtain subscriber information from an internet service provider based in Salem, which pointed to Thames’ address in Canova.

In October 2021, authorities received a warrant that allowed Snapchat to provide law enforcement data that affirmed the account belonged to Thames.

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An arrest affidavit filed in South Dakota said the data uncovered not only multimedia files that “depict child pornography” alleged by the tips, but other multimedia files of an unknown number of children that were deemed pornographic.

"Based upon my review of all the image files and video files ... contained within the two Snapchat user accounts, I found that some of the image files and video files show unknown prepubescent juveniles exposing their bare genitals," the arresting DCI agent wrote in the affidavit. "Other image files and video files depict unknown adult males engaging in acts of sexual contact penetration with ... the juveniles."

Thames allegedly declined to speak with law enforcement officers during the execution of the search warrant at his apartment in Madison.

In his South Dakota case, Thames faces 10 counts of possessing child pornography, punishable by up to 100 years in prison and a $200,000 fine. That case is set to head to a jury trial on March 16.

On the federal level, he’s facing one count of production of child pornography, he faces a statutory minimum of 15 years in prison. He could be sentenced to serve up to a maximum of 30 years.

A federal jury trial has been set for March 22 at the federal courthouse in Sioux Falls.

Anyone can submit a CyberTip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children , which will be forwarded on to local task forces or federal authorities.

Related Topics: CRIME AND COURTS
Dunteman covers general and breaking news as well as crime in the Mitchell Republic's 17-county coverage area. He grew up in Harrisburg, and has lived in South Dakota for over 20 years. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 after earning his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He can be reached at HDunteman@MitchellRepublic.com, or on Twitter @HRDunt.
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