A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced a Billings woman who admitted allowing children in her care to be used to make child pornography to 10 years in prison.

Senior U.S. District Judge Jack Shanstrom followed a plea agreement in sentencing Michelle Marie Sipes, 44. He called the crime "despicable" and said it was worst case of custodial abuse he'd seen.

Sipes pleaded guilty in September to aiding and abetting the receipt of child porn. She admitted to letting a man and a woman from out of state make sexually explicit movies of children from 2001 to 2004. The victims were under the age of 12.

Sipes turned to the victims in the courtroom and apologized before breaking into sobs.

Two witnesses spoke on behalf of the victims.

"You're going to have to live with what you did for the rest of your life," Shanstrom told Sipes.

Shanstrom also ordered a lifetime of supervised release for Sipes and dismissed an indictment under the terms of a plea agreement. Sipes originally was charged with conspiracy to sexually exploit children.

Sipes faced a guideline range sentence of 30 years to life, but the maximum statutory penalty was 20 years.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marcia Hurd said the 10-year sentence was reasonable and would hold Sipes responsible while sparing the victims from the ordeal of a trial.

The case against Sipes began with an Alabama investigation into child porn by the FBI, who had videotapes of a man and a woman sexually assaulting children. The man, Ricky Smith, was convicted in Alabama. The woman, Denise Ward, was convicted in Texas. Both were sentenced to federal prison.

Smith told investigators he paid cash to Sipes so he and Ward could have access to children to make pornography.

 

 

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