Ex-Jaguars employee who once hacked team's Jumbotron sentenced to 220 years in prison for child molestation

JACKSONVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 21: Blake Bortles #5 of the Jacksonville Jaguars plays during the game against the Indianapolis Colts at EverBank Field on September 21, 2014 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
A hacked Jaguars Jumbotron was the start of an awful, awful story. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

A Jacksonville Jaguars employee was let go in 2018. What happened next ultimately resulted in him being sentenced to more than two centuries in prison.

Samuel Arthur Thompson, 53, was sentenced to 220 years in federal prison Tuesday on charges of producing, receiving and possessing child sex abuse material (CSAM), producing CSAM while required to register as a sex offender, violating the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, sending unauthorized damaging commands to a protected computer, and possessing a firearm as a convicted felon.

Thompson, found guilty by a jury on Nov. 17, 2023, will also be required to forfeit his computers and firearm and will face a lifetime of supervised release.

It all reportedly started with a hacked Jumbotron.

How a Jaguars big-screen malfunction led to a lifetime in prison

The Jaguars reportedly hired Thompson in 2013 as a contractor to consult on the design and installation of EverBank Stadium's new big screen, and then operate it on gamedays. What they apparently didn't know was Thompson was convicted of sodomizing of a 14-year-old male child in Alabama in 1998 and required to register as a sex offender, as well as prohibited from owning firearms.

Thompson reportedly didn't inform the Jaguars of his status and the team decided to not renew his contract in Jan. 2018 when it found out about his conviction. Before leaving, Thompson reportedly installed remote access software on a spare server in the Jaguars’ server room, which he then used to sabotage the Jumbotron during three of the Jaguars' games in 2018.

The Jaguars eventually figured out someone was hacking them and set up a "honeypot" by isolating the server on its own network. When someone accessed that server again, the Jaguars caught their IP address and gave it to the FBI, who traced it to Thompson's residence.

A federal search warrant led to the FBI raiding that residence in July 2019, where the agents found not only the devices used to remotely access the server, but thousands of images and hundreds of videos of CSAM and other assorted, completely awful stuff, including a video and series of photos Thompson produced a month earlier in which he can be heard talking to the child in his living room.

Agents also reportedly seized a gun on Thompson's nightstand, which he was banned from possessing.

Subsequent interviews with three male children reportedly revealed Thompson had molested two of them, exposed himself to them, exposed them to CSAM and encouraged them to play a "game" that involved taking their clothes off. The latter point is when Thompson produced the CSAM.

The children were seven, eight and 10 years old at the time.

Thompson reportedly fled to the Philippines in July 2019, only to have his passport revoked and get deported back in Jan. 2020. He was arrested by the FBI upon arrival and subsequently found to have sexually exploited two additional children.

From the DOJ:

“This case exemplifies the unrelenting tenacity of investigators who pursue justice for innocent victims of crime,” said FBI Jacksonville’s Acting Special Agent in Charge Coult Markovsky. “Samuel Thompson repeatedly abused and exploited innocent children, inflicting immeasurable hurt on his victims. He also abused and exploited his employer by installing malicious software to manipulate their systems, which could have caused significantly more damage if not detected. Let this sentence serve as a pledge to all victims of crime that the FBI and our partners will doggedly pursue those who prey on them.”

Thompson is, bizarrely, the second former Jaguars employee to be sentenced to federal prison this month. Amit Patel, the Jaguars' former financial planning and analysis manager, was sentenced to 6 1/2 years on March 12 for a $22 million embezzlement scheme, mostly to pay off his gambling losses.