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Roland Vance Watson
WHKY file photo

40 Year Prison Sentence Imposed For Hickory Man Charged In Federal Child Porn Case

55-year-old Roland Vance Watson of Hickory was sentenced Thursday (May 9) to 40 years in prison followed by a lifetime of supervised release. He received the sentence for producing child pornography and committing a felony involving a minor while being required to register as a sex offender. The announcement was made by Dena J. King, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Watson will be required to register as a sex offender after he is released from prison. Chief Reed Baer of the Hickory Police Department join U.S. Attorney King in making the announcement.

The criminal investigation began in January 2023, after law enforcement received information from a concerned adult that Watson had exchanged inappropriate text messages with a minor female. According to filed court documents and Thursday’s sentencing hearing, investigators determined that, between August 2021 and February 2023, Watson had sexually abused three minor females on multiple occasions.

Three cell phones seized from Watson and Watson’s home were forensically analyzed and multiple sexually explicit text messages were recovered between Watson and one of the minors. In some of the texts, Watson induced the minor to send him explicit images and videos of herself in exchange for gifts and candy. The phones also contained child pornography produced by Watson that depicted Watson sexually abusing the minors and other sexually explicit images and videos featuring the minors in various states of undress.

According to court records, in 1991, Watson was sentenced to five years in prison for sexually assaulting a 15-year-old girl in New Jersey. As part of Watson’s sentence, he was ordered to register with the Sex Offender Registry Board in any state or jurisdiction where he worked or resided. Court documents show that after Watson moved to North Carolina, he failed to register as a sex offender.

Watson will remain in federal custody pending placement by the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The investigation was conducted by HSI and the Hickory Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Cervantes, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, prosecuted the case.