Crigler orders 10-year term for child pornography

Friday, April 27, 2007

A Lewisburg man was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison as a result of his jury conviction for having child pornography.

The man's crime is punishable by a two-year sentence under the law when he was arrested, but the law changed and the judge agreed with prosecutors that under the state's sentencing guidelines, a longer sentence could be imposed.

Normally, defendants' previous criminal record can't be used against them in a trial, but it's allowed when they're sentenced and it's not just another criminal conviction that can be considered. Previous criminal behavior can be used to justify having several terms served one after another instead of all the two-year terms served at the same time.

That's what happened on Wednesday when Wade McKinley Staggs, 51, was sentenced by Marshall County Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler. He presided over Staggs' trial in mid November when he was convicted on more than 50 cou-nts of sexual exploitation of a minor by having digital pictures of little girls on his computer hard drive.

Defense attorney Susan McCown argued that Staggs' previous criminal record should have allowed him to be released because he'd been in jail nearly 15 months and each conviction in the child pornography case is punishable by two years.

She objected to Judge Crigler's decision to hear testimony from a married woman who said that Stagges molested her when she was five years old and for "as far back as I can remember."

The woman didn't tell anyone until she was 19 and then she only told Staggs' second wife because she was pregnant.

"It's in the past," she said. "I wouldn't be here unless they asked me."

The woman, who's not named or otherwise described here because she was a victim of an alleged sex crime, said another reason she didn't complain was because Staggs threatened to kill another child.

Staggs is a sexual predator, Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard said, arguing for an enhancement of the punishment by making the terms consecutive.

And while McCown argued that domestic charges against Staggs had been set aside -- a reason she cited to refute Barnard's press for a longer term, the prosecutor emphasized that Staggs didn't take the stand and deny committing the alleged acts.

McCown said Staggs had the pictures because he had another man's computer.

Barnard's request for consecutive terms began with his argument that state lawmakers increased the punishment for possession of child pornography after Staggs was arrested.

Crigler noted the time of Stagg's crime was in November and December 2004.

"There was a drastic change in the punishment," Crigler said.

Terms went from 1-2 years to 8-12 years after 2005, he said.

Crigler accepted the woman's testimony about having been molested as a child, saying the issue isn't whether he was convicted of the crime, but for sentencing purposes, whether he was shown to have engaged in other criminal behavior.

For that and other reasons, Crigler said he grouped the convictions in such a way as to have some terms served at the same time, but those groups of two-year terms when served one after another resulted in a 10 year term.