Joseph Troy Holbert (Escambia County (Fla.) Sheriff’s Office)
A 54-year-old man in Florida will spend more than two decades behind bars after admitting to hiding in a crawl space beneath a home so he could surreptitiously film two young girls showering. U.S. District Judge T. Kent Wetherell II on Wednesday ordered Joseph Troy Holbert to serve a sentence of 25 years in a federal penitentiary, authorities announced.
Holbert previously pleaded guilty to two counts of producing images and videos of child pornography. His prison sentence will be followed by a lifetime of supervised release and he must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida, Holbert in February 2023 hid in the crawl space underneath a family member’s home and used a hidden camera to film two girls, ages 8 and 9, undressing and bathing in an outdoor shower after swimming in the family pool.
The girls reported what they’d seen to an adult in the home who confronted Holbert and demanded to see his phone. He declined and immediately left the home, authorities said.
In an interview with deputies from the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, the two victims said they were showering when they spotted “a black wire protruding out of the wall of the outdoor shower whilst they were in there after playing outside in their bathing suits,” court documents state.
“They were nude in the shower, saw the black wire, and pulled on it, which allowed them to see a cellular telephone attached to it,” federal authorities wrote in a probable cause affidavit. “ECSO located the crawl space, found moved dirt in the area, and seized the black wire that was connected to the cellular telephone of Holbert (which he left behind in his haste to leave the residence).”
Investigators determined that on the end of the wire was a “remote camera attached to a cell phone that was being operated by Holbert as he hid in the crawl space under the house while filming [the victims showering].”
Both girls told investigators that after they pulled the wire through the shower, they were able to see Holbert holding a cellphone as he “crawled away” in the space beneath the house.
Authorities the following day located Holbert and executed a search warrant on the home where he was filming the two minors. In the child’s bedroom, authorities found a hidden camera that had been placed inside of a wall outlet. The footage from the camera showed both victims “fully nude” in front of the device. Investigators also noted that the height and angle of the camera was focused “directly on the pubic area of the minors when standing.”
A forensic review of Holbert’s electronic devices, which deputies said he attempted to destroy, revealed “hundreds of images/videos” of one of the minor victims from the shower and bedroom cameras.
“Crimes against our children are among the most sinister types of offenses and deserving of the most significant sentences,” U.S. Attorney Jason R. Coody said in a statement. “Those who produce child pornography facilitate the abuse of children, robbing them of their innocence. We will continue to work tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute those who engage in such heinous conduct.”
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