Man Sentenced 17 1/2 Years for Transporting Minors Across State Lines to Engage Criminal Sexual Activity at Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smokey Mountains
Joseph Harold Patterson, age 58, will serve a lengthy prison term for violations in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

NPS photo.

News Release Date: August 31, 2017

Contact: NPS Investigative Services Branch, (202) 379-4761

ASHEVILLE, NC – US District Judge Max O. Cogburn, Jr. sentenced yesterday a South Carolina man to 17 ½ years in prison and a lifetime of supervised release, on the charge of interstate transportation of a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, announced Jill Westmoreland Rose, US Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. As part of his sentence, Joseph Harold Patterson, age 58, was also ordered to register on the national sex offender registry, pay a $20,000 court fine, and $4,538.42 as restitution.

Chief Ranger Steven Kloster of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Service joins US Attorney Rose in making today’s announcement.

“Mr. Patterson has received a well-deserved lengthy prison sentence for abusing these young men. Some say there is a special place in hell for child abusers and we cannot promise Mr. Patterson will receive that just punishment, but we can guarantee that he will receive a place in the federal penitentiary and for now, that’s the best we can do,” said US Attorney Rose.

“We are thankful to see justice prevail and hope that the individuals impacted by these despicable crimes are able to find some measure of solace in Mr. Patterson’s punishment,” continued Chief Ranger Kloster.

According to court documents and information introduced at the sentencing hearing, in April 2015, a concerned parent contacted law enforcement to report that his child had been the victim of inappropriate sexual activity by Patterson, and that the conduct had occurred during camping trips arranged by the defendant. Court records show that between 2009 and 2011, Patterson had made at least three camping trips transporting at least three minor victims from Anderson, SC to the Smokemont Campground, located within Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Court records also show that Patterson knew the minors through his affiliation with a church in Anderson. According to court records, during the camping trips Patterson encouraged the minors to engage in sexual activities in his presence. At times, Patterson also exposed himself to the minors and/or engaged in sexual activities in front of the minors.

In addition to the out-of-state camping trips, court records show that Patterson had regular contact with the three victims and other children in his own home. During those encounters, Patterson gave the minors alcohol, shared pornography, discussed sexual topics and encouraged them to engage in sexual activities. Patterson also bought gifts for some of the children and took them out to restaurants, among other things. Court records show that on one occasion, Patterson attended an evening church event, during which he showed pornography to three minor children and encouraged them to engage in a sexual activity in the church bathroom.

Patterson pleaded guilty in February 2017 to one count of interstate transportation of a minor to engage in sexual activity. Patterson is currently in the custody of the United States Marshal pending his designation to a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility. All federal sentences are served without the possibility of parole.

In making today’s announcement US Attorney Rose commended the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch for leading the investigation. US Attorney Rose also thanked the Anderson Police Department in South Carolina and the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office for their assistance in this case. The US Attorney’s Office in Asheville prosecuted the case.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in 2006 by the Department of Justice, aimed at combating the growing online sexual exploitation of children. By combining resources, federal, state and local agencies are better able to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue those victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov
 

ISB: the Investigative Services Branch of the National Park Service
www.nps.gov/isb



Last updated: September 18, 2017