Elijah De’Shawn Hudson, a 24-year-old resident of 21 Rymen Lane in Palm Coast, faces 17 felony charges of possession of images or videos of sexual abuse of children, including second-degree felony charges of transmission of images of sexual abuse of minors. He’s being held at the Flagler County jail on $255,000 bond.
Hudson’s is the latest in a series of similar arrests of individuals following investigations by the relatively new cybercrime unit at the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office. In every case the unit, run by detective Dennis Lashbrook, receives an initial “CyberTip” from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
The organization saw a doubling of tips just in the first six months of 2020, compared to the year before. The FBI had warned a year ago, at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, that the closing of schools or the higher prevalence of schooling from home could lend itself to a higher prevalence of online child exploitation. Arrests of Palm Coast or Flagler County individuals accused of possessing and transmitting images of child sexual abuse took place two weeks ago, in early December, and three times last year, including the arrest of a 15-year-old boy in West Flagler.
The latest case involved brazen behavior by Hudson, who allegedly tried to trade illicit images through his Instagram account and conducted text exchanges with potential traders. As in cases involving previous arrests, materials at the center of the case involve explicit images and videos of prepubescent children. Through subpoenas, the detective obtained voluminous data sets of Hudson’s activities online (one set amounted to 1,453 pages), including his text exchanges under the name “undisputed_13.”
“You trade?” undisputed asked someone on Sept. 2. “You got black young,” came the reply. “Yea I do,” undisputed said. “Send,” the other wrote. Undisputed then send a 14-second video of a girl between 7 and 9 performing explicit acts. Other textual exchanges follow the same pattern.
Deputies searched Hudson’s home and electronics after getting a warrant on Dec. 29. Generally, when deputies show up at the home of a person suspected of illicit online activity connected to abuse, the person is not surprised. Nor was Hudson. He understood why the deputies were there, and knew why his Instagram account had been disabled by Instagram when he tried to trade an image.
According to his exchange with deputies the day of his interview, as recounted in his arrest report, he verified various items, including an image of himself “as a speaker at ‘Circumcision of the Heart Ministries.'” He told deputies he knew he shouldn’t be downloading illicit images, and allegedly “admitted to the fact that he was trading” such materials on Instagram. He said he’d been in possession of materials for a year but had begun trading only recently. “He stated that he stopped after his account got shut down, but got the itch and started up again, because he got bored,” his arrest report notes.
The search of Hudson’s phone alone produced some 70 images of videos deemed “child notable,” or illicit. His Dropbox account contained additional pictures and videos, leading to 15 counts of possession and two counts of transmission of child sexual abuse. The children in the videos are as young as 2. Many of the videos depict assaults and rapes of children by adults, thus, combined with the volume of videos or images, upgrading the criminal charge from a third to a second degree felony.
Sheriff Rick Staly directed his agency to participate with the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force starting in 2018. The ICAC Task Force consists of state and local law enforcement dedicated to developing effective responses to the online enticement of children by sexual predators, child exploitation, and child obscenity and pornography cases. In late 2019, Sheriff Staly implemented a full-time Cybercrimes/ICAC Unit.