HOUSTON – A 42-year-old Houston man has been ordered to prison for committing sexual exploitation and coercion and enticement of minors, announced U.S. Attorney Jennifer B. Lowery.
Thomas Douglas Butler pleaded guilty April 14, 2021.
Today, U.S. District Judge Alfred Bennet sentenced Butler to 480 months in federal prison. At the hearing, the court also heard additional information including a statement detailing the severe emotional distress that now exists among the victim and her relatives from the trauma Butler inflicted. “The defendant in this case took advantage of my daughter’s weaknesses and caused her lifelong damage,” it read. The mother further noted her daughter returned home a “very different child.”
In handing down the prison terms, the court noted Butler had been “on a path to this moment based on his criminal history.” Butler will serve 10 years on supervised release following completion of his prison term, during which time he will have to comply with numerous requirements designed to restrict his access to children and the internet. He will also be ordered to register as a sex offender.
Butler met the 14-year-old female victim through a social media website known as FaceFlow. During those communications, posed as a 23-year-old male, befriended her and convinced her to run away with him. Butler subsequently traveled to pick her up and broght her to a Houston hotel where he had been residing for approximately one year.
The victim said Butler provided alcohol to her immediately and on numerous occasions while she was with him and gave her very little food. Law enforcement was quickly able to rescue her.
A search warrant executed at the hotel room revealed several documents and electronic devices which led to the discovery of a second out-of-state victim. Butler had also groomed that minor female to engage in sexually-charged conversations and sexually-illicit behavior online such as exposing her genitals in a lewd and lascivious manner during Skype video calls. Butler recorded the Skype calls with the victim. If she did not comply, Butler threatened to notify the victim’s parents or others of their relationship and distribute the videos he created from the Skype calls.
Butler has been in custody since being determined a danger to the community and a flight risk, where he will remain in custody pending transfer to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons facility to be determined in the near future.
The FBI conducted the investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri L. Zack prosecuted the case, which was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood (PSC), a nationwide initiative the Department of Justice (DOJ) launched in May 2006 to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section leads PSC, which marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children and identifies and rescues victims. For more information about PSC, please visit DOJ’s PSC page. For more information about internet safety education, please visit the resources link on that page.