A former Joplin police officer pleaded guilty Monday in federal court to receiving and distributing child pornography, including a video file of a sexual assault of a 4-year-old girl.

Gary McKinney, 43, of Joplin, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Springfield to the charge contained in a 2018 federal indictment. He faces a mandatory minimum of five years or up to 20 years in a federal prison. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.

McKinney was a Joplin police officer for seven years, leaving the force in May 2006 to serve short stints with both Webb City and Duquesne police departments.

He came under investigation by the Southwest Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force and Homeland Security Investigations in September 2018 when a task force agent received a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The tip originated with Facebook and concerned a Facebook user who had uploaded a video file depicting the sexual assault of a 4-year-old girl, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Springfield.

U.S. District Court documents state that the user eventually was identified as Anthony Helsel, 31, of Joplin, who is currently facing a federal charge of sexual exploitation of children.

Task force and HSI agents made contact with Helsel in October 2018 and learned from him that he used the application KIK on his cellphone to engage in chats with others regarding child pornography and that when the agents arrived at his home, he had been chatting with a user who went by the handle "Jim Beam," whom he knew as Gary McKinney because he had received a MoneyGram from McKinney for $30 to purchase pictures of a 4-year-old girl's feet. Authorities said McKinney also sought shoes and socks worn by the girl.

Helsel told investigators that he sent at least one picture of the girl to McKinney. An HSI special agent subsequently made contact with McKinney via KIK using Helsel's account but could not get McKinney to meet with him at that time.

Investigators subsequently identified McKinney as a Joplin resident and found exchanges between Helsel and him on Helsel's phone that included video files of child pornography sent to McKinney by Helsel. A search warrant was obtained on McKinney's residence and served Oct. 3, 2018. McKinney's phone was seized, with investigators locating 506 images and 148 videos on it that were deemed child pornography, according to an affidavit filed in federal court.

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