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Doctoral Student Sentenced to 8 Years for Downloading Child Porn

Crime

A forensic investigation discovered Jin had downloaded more than 47,000 images and videos onto his computer. | Image by Shutterstock

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A doctoral student was sentenced to eight years in federal prison on Thursday for accessing thousands of child pornography images and videos, with some files depicting sexual assault of infants and toddlers.

U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant in Sherman handed Shanlin Jin, 24, the sentence and ordered him to pay restitution to seven victims who requested it, according to The Dallas Morning News.


Jin pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography in December 2020 after a forensic investigation discovered he had downloaded more than 47,000 images and videos onto his computer.

Events leading to Jin’s sentencing began at the end of 2020 when undercover agents downloaded child pornography from a user who authorities later identified as Jin. In January 2021, The Collin County Sheriff’s Office then executed a search warrant of a home in Allen that the Chinese national had been renting.

Jin initially denied having viewed child pornography, telling police he mostly used his computer to play video games, watch anime, and work on school projects. However, officers also found child pornography playing on the defendant’s laptop when they entered the house to execute the search warrant.

“Right now, on your computer is a video of a 10-to-13-year-old girl being sexually assaulted,” an investigator told him.

The investigator then asked Jin about the youngest person he had seen in pornographic images.

“Uh, I’m not sure, but maybe 16, 17, or 14?” Jin replied before the investigator told him, “Okay. We call that child pornography.” The investigator had already watched the young man download child pornography for nearly two months.

The student was later questioned in a police vehicle outside the home before he admitted to viewing child pornography images and videos. Jin’s attorney then requested that a judge dismiss his client’s initial statement to police because he didn’t have an attorney present.

Prosecutors, however, argued that the defendant was not in custody when he gave the statements and described him as a “highly intelligent, educated man” who was fluent in English and understood what was happening at the time. The judges ruled in favor of the prosecutors.

An agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation testified in court that Jin was in the U.S. on a student visa that expired in June 2021.

Court records also showed that Jin had previously reported having suicidal thoughts while studying for his bachelor’s degree. In a letter to the presiding judge seeking leniency, Jin’s mother wrote that the pandemic made him unable to reunite with his family in China.

“In January 2020, Shanlin left China for Dallas. Ever since then, his immunity (sic) system was impaired due to the continuous influence of mental pressure, such as loneliness, anxiety, and fear,” Lixin He, Jin’s mother, wrote in the letter. “I realized Shanlin Jin’s wrongdoings of downloading and obtaining illegal and harmful videos. I also encouraged him to plead guilty over the phone.”

Jin’s attorney, Paul Saputo, said it is unfortunate that child pornography images are rampant on the peer-to-peer (p2p) networks, among other legitimate files.

“You can run afoul of the law by clicking on the wrong links,” he said.

Saputo added that his client cooperated with investigators, accepted his sentence, and regrets his actions.

Court records show Jin, born in Beijing, was scheduled to receive his bachelor’s degree from the “Special Class for the Gifted Young at the University of Science and Technology of China” just before turning 19.

In 2016, the student moved to the U.S., where he obtained a master’s degree in economics from Temple University in Philadelphia. He then moved to North Texas to begin a Ph.D. program in economics at Southern Methodist University, court records showed.

Jin, who was suspended from campus at SMU following his arrest, will likely be deported after serving his jail time.

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