A one-time doctor and cancer researcher at the University of Michigan Hospital was sentenced on March 21 to three years in prison on a federal charge of possession of child pornography. Three years is the minimum sentence available for child pornography possession under federal law. The judge presiding over the case and the plea deal that led to the sentence concluded that the man was not a threat to children and would benefit from treating his condition in the community upon his release.
The man was a resident at the University of Michigan Hospital in 2011 when someone discovered a thumbdrive left attached to a facility computer. The thumbdrive contained several images of child pornography. The external hard drive was later linked to the defendant and he was eventually charged in federal court with possession of child pornography. Prosecutors accused him of having 97 illegal images of children as well as four videos.
The government and the defendant originally reached a plea agreement in September, but the judge rejected his guilty plea at that time because the deal did not include the defendant's right to appeal his sentence. The judge approved a new plea bargain and imposed sentence on March 21.
The prosecution wanted the defendant to serve up to four years in prison, but his defense attorney argued that his client never touched a child inappropriately and that he was not a threat to the community. He cited testimony from the defendant's therapist saying that the man would be able to be rehabilitated while out of prison. It appears the judge accepted that argument.
This case demonstrates how, in some instances, a person accused of a sex crime like child pornography can reach a plea agreement for a reduced sentence given his or her criminal history and individual circumstances.
Source: AnnArbor.com, "Doctor to serve minimum sentence for possession of child porn," Kyle Feldscher, March 22, 2013