Former Boston-area youth football coach sentenced to 45 years in prison in sexual exploitation case


BOSTON, Mass. (WRBL) – A Boston-area football coach has been sentenced to four and a half decades in prison in a child sexual exploitation case.

According to a news release from the FBI, Derek Sheehan, 51, was sentenced to serve 45 years in federal prison by U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns.

The sentencing follows Sheehan’s guilty plea to three counts of sexual exploitation of children on July 20, 2021, according to the release.

Sheehan is a former Norwell youth football coach. According to prosecutors with the US Attorney’s Office, used his position as a coach to target his victims.

“Mr. Sheehan abused his status as a youth football coach to prey on vulnerable children.  He manipulated and sexually exploited them for months, and for that he will spend the rest of his life behind bars,” said Acting United States Attorney Nathaniel R. Mendell.

The investigation into Sheehan began in June 2018, after one of his victims reported being sexually abused by Sheehan, according to the release. The following month, in August 2018, Sheehan’s home was searched. Officials said during the search, electronic devices with child pornography were seized by investigators.

Analysis of the devices revealed Sheehan had sexually abused three children who were sleeping in his home. The instances of abuse occurred between March 2017 and July 2018. The victims seen in footage were 11 and 12 year old, and were known to Sheehan, according to officials.

Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division called Sheehan’s sexual abuse of these victims “absolutely horrific”, and said the impact his actions had on his victims is “immeasurable”.

“While today’s sentencing cannot erase that harm, it ensures he will remain behind bars for a very long time, unable to victimize anyone else, ever again,” said Bonavolonta.

The case is brought as part of Project Safe Childhood. In 2006, the Department of Justice created Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from exploitation and abuse. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the DOJ’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please click here

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