On January 23, 2018, John D. Hart of Vermont was sentenced to 12 years in prison by Judge D. Charles Bailey for sexually abusing an Aloha teen that he met through an online forum for the video game "Call of Duty." Hart began grooming the victim when she was 15 years old, initially communicating online and then progressing to a secret phone that Hart gave the victim. After she turned sixteen, Hart flew cross country every few months to have sex with the victim at a local hotel. Referring to her as his "child bride," Hart picked up the victim from Aloha High School or a nearby bus stop and took her to his hotel room, where he video recorded some of the abuse. After she turned eighteen, the victim returned to Vermont with Hart and was briefly married to him before ending the relationship at the age of nineteen.

The multi-jurisdiction investigation into Hart's activities began after Hart accidentally gave the victim video files showing his sexual abuse of her as a minor. She provided the videos to authorities in Vermont and explained his years of abuse. Multiple state and federal law enforcement authorities cooperated in building the case against Hart, including the Department of Homeland Security, the Vermont State Police, and the Beaverton Police Department. After federal prosecutors in Vermont declined to pursue the case Chief Deputy District Attorney Kevin Barton secured a seven count indictment from the Washington County Grand Jury charging Hart with Luring a Minor, Using a Child in a Display of Sexually Explicit Conduct, and Sexual Abuse in the Second Degree. Hart pled guilty to four of the counts, accepting the prison sentence and the lifelong requirement to register as a sex offender.

At the sentencing hearing Mr. Barton detailed the facts of the case, describing Hart as "every parent's worst nightmare," before yielding the floor for the victim's statement via speakerphone. She expressed the terrible effect the abuse had on her childhood and her adult relationships, saying "I don't want anybody else to ever go through anything like this." This case is another reminder that the victims of child sex crimes often wait to report past abuse. Child sex abuse occurs at a time and place of the abuser's choosing, frequently when there are no other witnesses and physical evidence can be hidden or destroyed. Oregon law recognizes that often the only evidence of abuse is the testimony of the victim. Persons wishing to report child sex abuse are encouraged to contact any law enforcement agency, the Department of Human Services child abuse reporting hotline at 503-681-6917, or to simply call 911.


January 24, 2018