Former Royse City minister Steve Richardson was sentenced yesterday to 17 years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, after pleading guilty in March to sending and possessing child pornography from his church office computer to others via the Internet.
The 36-year-old former pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Royse City was sentenced in Dallas by U.S. District Judge Sam A. Lindsay, who also ordered him to register as a sex offender and serve a lifetime of supervised release, according to federal prosecutors.
Suspended after the arrest from his ministerial position last December by the North Texas Conference of United Methodist Church, the husband and father of three children has been in federal custody since his Sept. 24 arrest by U.S. ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents.
The arrest came after an undercover investigation by a federal agent who communicated with Richardson over Google Hello, an Internet service that enabled users to share photos via their computers, but has since been shut down.
Richardson, who used the identity of “cowboyspades,” admitted sending an image of a minor and possessing an external hard drive that contained more than 600 images of child pornography. Agents had seized a computer containing images of child pornography from his church office, said Acting U.S. Attorney James T. Jacks.
The former minister had pleaded guilty in March to one count of possessing child pornography and one count of transporting and shipping child pornography. He had faced a maximum of 20 years on the transporting charge, 10 years on the possession charge and a $250,000 fine on each charge.