AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRBL) – A Georgia man convicted on nine felony charges concerning child sex trafficking was sentenced to life in federal prison without the possibility of parole.
On Tuesday, Michael Payton Gunn, 37, of Evans, Georgia, received three terms of life imprisonment after being convicted on nine felony charges, announced U.S. Attorney David H. Estes.
In addition to Gunn’s prison sentence, Judge J. Randal Hall also ordered him to pay $800,000 in restitution, register as a sex offender, and be subject to a life term of supervised release if released from prison.
Chief Judge Hall is also scheduled to sentence Gunn’s former wife, Amanda Gunn aka “Amanda Howard,” 35, of Augusta, Georgia.
Amanda Gunn testified in Michael Gunn’s November 2021 trial and she faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in prison after she pled guilty to Sex Trafficking Conspiracy.
On Nov. 18, 2021, a U.S. District Court Jury found Michael Gunn guilty on all nine charges including Conspiracy to Engage in Sex Trafficking of a Minor, Sex Trafficking of a Child, Coercion and Enticement of a Minor to Engage in Sexual Activity, four counts of Child Pornography, and Obstruction of a Sex Trafficking Investigation.
Chief Judge Hall sentenced Gunn to concurrent life imprisonment for the first three counts, 30-year terms for each count of Production of Child Pornography, a 20-year sentence for Possession of Child Pornography, and a 25-year sentence for Obstruction of a Sex Trafficking Investigation.
During Michael Gunn’s trial, the minor victim testified that Gunn used “rewards, fear, threats of harm, physical abuse, and intimidation to manipulate and sexually abuse them.”
Gunn’s actions eventually advanced from coercing the victim to engage in producing child pornography to forcing the victim to participate in commercial sex trafficking facilitated through online advertising.
The investigation into Gunn began in February 2020 when the FBI investigated a child pornography case in Hopkins County, Texas. During the investigation, FBI agents uncovered contraband images, and among those, agents found over 700 photographs, most of the photos depicting sexually explicit child exploitation featuring a minor victim.
The FBI using digital location traced the images to Gunn’s residence in Evans, Georgia. FBI agents later questioned Gunn, searched his residence, and discovered evidence of the production of child pornography and exploitation of the same minor victim featured in photos the FBI found in Texas. FBI agents also uncovered several electronic devices containing evidence of numerous graphic images of child sexual exploitation, torture, and abuse.
The FBI investigation resulted in a superseding indictment which added Amanda Gunn as a defendant due to her participation in the sex-trafficking conspiracy and obstruction of the investigation. She later confessed to her involvement during Michael Gunn’s Trial.
Jonathan Eugene Grantham, 45, of Graniteville, South Carolina, who is serving 140 months in prison after pleading guilty in August 2021 to Coercion and Enticement of a Minor to Engage in Sexual Activity, also testified in court.
Grantham confessed to responding to an online advertisement trafficking the minor victim and traveled from South Carolina to Evans, Georgia, to take the victim to a nearby motel for sex in exchange for money.
The FBI investigated the case and Assistant U.S. Attorney and Project Safe Childhood Coordinator Tara M. Lyons prosecuted the case for the United States.