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Ex-pastor enters child porn plea

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Editor's Note: This story contains graphic details regarding child sexual exploitation that may be disturbing to some readers. 

A former Wilson pastor accused of coercing an underage Texas girl into creating child pornography has pleaded guilty nearly five months after he was indicted on a federal charge.

On Friday, 33-year-old Daniel Franklin Heath pleaded guilty to one count of coercion and enticement of a minor, according to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas Sherman Division and federal documents. 

Heath was an associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Wilson for three years. He resigned from that post on the day of his arrest in May. He'd previously served as First Baptist's youth pastor for seven years.

Heath is awaiting sentencing and could face 10 years to life in prison. The sentencing phase of the case should occur within the next few months, according to federal officials. 

MESSAGES, MAIL AND A VISIT

Prosecutors say Heath used an LG model cellphone to "persuade, induce, entice and coerce," a minor to "engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of creating a visual depiction of such conduct, knowing that such depiction would transmitted in interstate and foreign commerce."

Federal authorities say the activity occurred from December 2017 until April 11 of this year. Sometime in December 2017, a "third party" introduced Heath to the victim through an "internet-based social media application," according to a factual basis document where a defendant stipulates and agrees to the facts of the case. 

Heath also admitted that he was more than 10 years older than the victim when he was living in Wilson at the time he interacted with the victim. The minor lived with her parents within the Eastern District of Texas. 

Court documents state Heath and the victim "began privately exchanging messages via an internet-based communications application." 

Heath also "remained in almost constant contact" with the victim between December 2017 and April 11.

"The two communicated via the social media and communications applications, phone calls, email exchanges, and video communications," according to court documents. 

Heath mailed packages from North Carolina to the victim's home in Texas. He also made a trip from Wilson to visit her in February, a court record states. 

"Heath admits that his communications with Victim 1 were romantic in nature, with both parties declaring themselves to be 'in love' with the other," according to the document. 

PROSECUTORS: HEATH REQUIRED 'SUBMISSION'

During the course of their communications, Heath allegedly required the victim to "submit" to him, according to the document. 

That "submission" included Heath selecting what underwear the victim would wear each day, his requirements as to "food and liquid intake, sleep and scheduling," how the victim was to "interact" with him, and required the victim to get his consent before "touching her own body," according to federal court documents. 

While Heath didn't stipulate to those facts in the case summary when he pleaded guilty Friday, the U.S. Attorney's Office asserts it has evidence to support each statement in its factual basis of the case. 

Health also allegedly asked the victim to take "photos and videos of herself engaged in sexually explicit conduct," according to federal documents, "including with foreign objects he sent to her." Heath also coerced the minor to use her cellphone to "create images and videos of herself nude, masturbating and placing foreign object in her genitals," and then sending those files to Heath, according to federal documents. 

Heath is currently in federal custody in Texas, officials said.

In April, the FBI contacted the Wilson Police Department regarding Heath, who was the subject of an ongoing investigation, officials said at the time. 

On the day of Heath's arrest, the Wilson Police Department's FBI Task Force detective assisted FBI agents in executing a search warrant at Heath's Wilson home. 

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