Courts

Former Dallas Preschool Teacher Sentenced to 20 Years for Buying Child Pornography

A former Dallas preschooler is going away for 20 years after buying child pornography on a popular social messaging app.
A former Dallas preschooler is going away for 20 years after buying child pornography on a popular social messaging app. Getty Images
If they hadn’t scoured the Philly perp’s phone, the FBI might never have found his co-conspirator in Dallas.

In 2020, FBI agents executed a search warrant granting them access to all the contents of a phone owned by a Philadelphia sex offender who was previously convicted of child pornography charges.

Agents found that the offender had been exchanging messages for months with a Dallas man named Jason Baldwin. Baldwin, 29, was a preschool teacher at the Hockaday School, an elite all-girls prep school in Dallas, at the time.

He was also using an encrypted social media app to buy access to images and videos of children being sexually abused from the man in Philadelphia, he admitted in a guilty plea filed in the Northern District of Texas last May.

On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Jane J. Boyle handed him his sentence: two decades in federal prison for receiving child pornography.

Baldwin secured links to the pornographic images of minors using a social media app popular amongst teenagers and pre-teen kids. Under the username "kpalin09," the preschool teacher sent messages to other users to let them know he was looking to buy child pornography, according to court documents.

Baldwin eventually found the Philadelphia offender under the username “BoyzcutiesX1” in late October 2019. Court documents say BoyzcutiesX1 was already a “large distributor of child pornography” when Baldwin contacted him.

FBI  agents then tracked a series of PayPal and Google Pay transactions between Baldwin and the distributor. Baldwin later admitted that he sent these payments in exchange for access to several videos of sexual abuse of minor boys.

Baldwin connected with the distributor through an app called Kik. That app has end-to-end encryption, meaning no one outside the senders and recipients of text messages sent within the app can spy on users’ conversations.

The number of end-to-end encrypted messaging apps has ballooned in recent years; Whatsapp and Signal, two of the first encrypted apps to hit the market, are now competing with a host of other apps like Telegram, Kik and Rocket.Chat, to name a few.

U.S. Justice Department officials in both the Obama and Trump administrations, however, urged Congress to rein in developers’ ability to encrypt messages, saying they enable criminal activity. No such regulations have passed into law since Whatsapp first came online in 2014.

Proponents argue that the tradeoff is worth it, though. These apps, if they work, shield users’ exchanges from surveillance by the app developer, the government and law enforcement. Access to truly secure communication methods, privacy advocates argue, is an essential safeguard against the ever-growing and largely secretive surveillance capacities of the U.S. government.
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Michael Murney is a staff writer at the Dallas Observer and a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. His reporting has appeared in Chicago’s South Side Weekly and the Chicago Reader.
Contact: Michael Murney