Despite a recommendation of county jail time and community control by the prosecution, Washington County Common Pleas Judge Ed Lane sentenced a former Marietta man to two-and-a-half years in prison Thursday over the discovery of child pornography images on his computer.
Richard A. Hill, 39, of Millfield in Athens County, was sentenced after pleading guilty to a third-degree felony count of attempted pandering of sexually oriented material involving a minor. As part of the plea agreement, the prosecution reduced the charge from a second-degree felony and Hill agreed to forfeit electronic devices seized when Washington County sheriff's deputies executed a search warrant at his former residence in Marietta's Putnam Place Apartments in June.
Trying to hold back tears, Hill told the judge he was "deeply sorry for what I've done."
Attorney Dennis Sipe, left, addresses Washington County Common Pleas Judge Ed Lane on behalf of Sipe’s client, Richard Hill, right, during a sentencing hearing in court Thursday.
EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
"My bad deeds caused a lot of hurt to a lot of people," he said. "I brought shame upon my family. I lost the respect of my community, my career and the love of my life."
Deputies received a tip last year that led them to investigate Hill and eventually obtain a search warrant. A sheriff's deputy said he located on Hill's computer multiple images of children engaged in sex acts with other children and adults.
Hill's attorney, Dennis Sipe, said his client was using a file-sharing system that allows people to view images and videos and listen to music.
"The anonymity the Internet gives us allows us to look at and see things that we really have no business looking at," he said.
But because the file-sharing system stored some of the images on Hill's computer, his browsing habits weren't as anonymous as he'd hoped.
Sipe noted Hill did not produce any of the images, and investigators found no local children in them.
"My client didn't take any pictures, he didn't advertise them out in the world," outside of agreeing to participate in the file-sharing, the attorney said.
Assistant Washington County Prosecutor Allison Cauthorn said that based on Hill's lack of a prior criminal record and his cooperation with investigators she would recommend a sentence that included time in the county jail and five years of strict community control limiting Hill's access to online resources. Lane noted the lack of factors indicating recidivism and Hill's remorse in the pre-sentence investigation report, but said the nature of the crime did not make him think Hill would be "amenable to community control."
"I have a lot of mixed feelings about this case," Lane said. "It wasn't just a one-time thing. It appears to be an extensive type of involvement."
While Sipe did not label his client's activity as extensive, he said after the hearing it was not a single, isolated viewing.
Lane also noted the images themselves have impact beyond their presence on Hill's computer.
"Every one of those little girls is somebody's child," he said.
Lane sentenced Hill to 30 months in prison, six months shy of the maximum possible, to be followed by five years of community control. He will also be labeled a Tier II sex offender, meaning he will have to register his address with authorities every six months for 25 years.
Hill did not show any immediate reaction to the sentence, although his arms and hands were trembling and he had more difficulty maintaining his composure as the hearing continued.
Hill was immediately taken into custody by sheriff's deputies. He will receive credit on his sentence for two days already served in the county jail.