Columbia County man faces up to life in federal prison for “horrific” child sex trafficking

Crime News

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – A Columbia County man was found guilty on all charges related to child sex trafficking and faces up to life in federal prison.

36-year-old Michael Peyton Gunn of Evans, Ga. was found guilty of nine charges following a four-day trial according to David H. Estes, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.

Gunn faces a minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison and three of the charges carry a statutory penalty of up to life in prison.

“The child exploitation offenses Gunn committed are absolutely horrific, going far beyond the initial, reprehensible child pornography offenses that alerted the FBI to his activities,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Estes. “The jurors are holding Michael Gunn accountable for his monstrous crimes, and providing a path to healing for his victim.”

The minor victim testified in court that Gunn through rewards, fear, intimidation and threats of harm manipulated the victim to take part in illegal sexual abuse as young as 7-years-old, through sexual exploitation at 13-years-old which steadily progressed from child porn to participating in commercial sex trafficking.

“Michael Gunn committed unspeakable crimes against a vulnerable child and no sentence for him will wipe away the trauma he has caused the victim,” said Chris Macrae, Acting Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta.  “However, thanks to the dedicated work from our agents who aggressively pursue these heinous criminals, Gunn will be removed from our streets where he will no longer be able to harm innocent children.”

FBI agents were called to assist in a child pornography case in Hopkins County, Texas which led to the investigation into Gunn in February 2020. Agents discovered more than 700 images, many of them depicting the minor victim and a digital location leading to Gunn’s residence. Agents from the Augusta FBI office questioned Gunn and searched his home, which lead to his indictment in March 2020.

The continued investigation led to a March 2021 indictment naming Gunn’s then wife, 34-year-old Amanda Howard Gunn, on charges of sex trafficking conspiracy and obstruction of a child sex trafficking investigation, and multiple sex trafficking-related charges to Michael Gunn. Amanda later pled guilty to sex trafficking conspiracy and awaits sentencing.

The minor victim testified during Michael Gunn’s trial that he coordinated several years of abuse, got paid from images of the victim and got paid from letting other men sexually exploit the victim.

45-year-old Jonathan Eugene Grantham of Graniteville, S.C., a former high school teacher, also awaits sentencing after pleading guilty in August to coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in sexual activity. Grantham admitted to responding to an online ad trafficking the victim. He drove from South Carolina to Evans to take the victim to a motel where he paid for a sexual act.

The jury found Gunn guilty of conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking or a minor, sex trafficking of a child, coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in sexual activity, four counts of production of child pornography, possession of child pornography, and obstruction of a sex-trafficking investigation. Gunn will be sentenced after a background investigation lead by the U.S. Probation Office.

The investigation is ongoing. If you have any information, please contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678.


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