A federal jury in Peoria, Illinois, found Nicole Eason guilty on two counts of kidnapping and one count of transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity with a minor, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney James A. Lewis of the Central District of Illinois and Special Agent in Charge Sean Cox of the FBI’s Springfield, Illinois, Division.
“The Easons took advantage of adopted children at their most vulnerable state and caused them to suffer irreparable abuse,” said Assistant Attorney General Caldwell. “Every child in American deserves a safe home, and this conviction should send a clear message that we will go after anyone who seeks to exploit children and risk their safety.”
“Those who wish to harm children often go to great lengths to deceive and manipulate in order to gain access to them,” said U.S. Attorney Lewis. “Citizen jurors, however, rendered their decision in this case based on the facts and evidence gathered and presented by law enforcement and prosecutors, to hold this defendant accountable.”
“Children are our most precious and vulnerable resource and protecting them from individuals like Mr. & Mrs. Eason who seek to exploit them sexually remains one of this office’s priorities,” said Special Agent in Charge Cox. “Today, the jury sent a clear message that this kind of reprehensible conduct will not be tolerated. We will continue to actively pursue anyone who would destroy a child’s innocence by violating federal child exploitation laws.”
Nicole Eason, 37, and her husband Calvin Eason, 46, both formerly of Danville and Westville, Illinois, were charged in connection with their sexual abuse of a child. The couple has remained in custody since their arrest in April 2015. On Nov. 6, 2015, Calvin Eason pleaded guilty to all three counts in the indictment. Nicole and Calvin Eason are scheduled to be sentenced on March 11, 2016.
Evidence at trial established that in 2006 through 2008, the Easons sought to adopt through an informal process, sometimes referred to as private “re-homing,” in which the legal adoptive family can no longer care for the child and transfer the child to another’s custody. In 2007, the Easons communicated with Minor Victim 1’s parents both through online discussion boards and directly and misrepresented material facts about their background to gain the parents’ trust, including, among other things, that they had a home study “waiver,” which the parents believed was needed to transfer custody of their child and which was used to verify the Easons as fit caregivers. Based on these misrepresentations, one of Minor Victim 1’s parents transported their child across state lines in 2007. The minor testified that while in the Easons’ custody for nearly a month, both Nicole and Calvin Eason sexually abused her.
Evidence at trial also established that in 2008, Nicole and Calvin Eason kidnapped a second minor, Minor Victim 2, in the same manner, and the minor was with them for a few days.
The FBI’s Springfield Division investigated the case in cooperation with the Vermilion County, Illinois, Sheriff’s Department, and Trial Attorney Jennifer Toritto Leonardo of the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) and Assistant U.S. Attorney Elly Peirson of the Central District of Illinois prosecuted the case.