Ellsworth man sentenced to 6 years for taping girl in bathroom with camera in clock

Posted Aug. 21, 2012, at 4:36 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 21, 2012, at 7:42 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — When the victim learned the man she had looked up to as a father figure had placed a hidden camera in the bathroom and captured some of her most private moments, the girl’s life turned into “something you’d see in the movies.”

That is what the Hancock County teenager Tuesday told a federal judge shortly before he sentenced Thomas King, 43, of Ellsworth to six years in prison for having videos of the girl, recorded in 2009 when she was 12 years old, on his computer.

“It’s just very sad and disappointing at the same time,” the victim, who was recorded by a male relative, told U.S. District Judge John Woodcock on Tuesday.

King pleaded guilty in October to possession of child pornography.

He was arrested in July 2011 after being indicted by a federal grand jury in Bangor.

The pinhole video camera King used was placed inside a clock that was on a windowsill in the bathroom primarily used by the victim more than two years ago. King admitted in October that he had downloaded images captured by the camera to his laptop and viewed them for his own sexual gratification.

His suspected activities were reported to police in January 2011.

An emotional King apologized Tuesday for his actions shortly before being sentenced.

“I committed a horrible offense that has driven a wedge between two families and torn them apart,” he said. “I worked 24 years as a volunteer firefighter and 13 as an EMT [in Ellsworth]. I’ve helped save countless lives. I’d like that taken into consideration.”

The victim, her mother and other family members sat behind Assistant U.S. Attorney Stacey Neumann, who prosecuted the case. On the other side of the courtroom, the defendant’s family and friends gathered.
Individuals from both sides told the judge King’s arrest and conviction has driven a wedge between two families that had been close for many years.

“What he did was he committed a horrendous betrayal of trust and viewed these videos for his own sexual gratification,” Woodcock said in imposing the sentence. “Usually the viewing of child pornography is done by someone who does not know the child they are sexaully objectifying.

“Here, the defendant knew the victim,” the judge continued at the end of the three-hour sentencing. “The victim looked at the defendant as a second father. So it is a mystery how this good man could have turned a 12-year-old [relative] into an object of sexual gratification.”

The judge also urged the families to forgive each other.

In addition to prison time, King was sentenced to 10 years of supervised release. Conditions include undergoing sex offender counseling and limited use of his computer. King also will be required to register as a sex offender.

He faced up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Under the prevailing sentencing guidelines, King faced between 6½ and eight years and 11 months in federal prison after Woodcock denied him a lesser guideline range.

If Woodcock had given King credit for pleading guilty rather than going to trial — called acceptance of responsibility in the federal judicial system — King would have faced between four years and nine months and five years and 11 months in federal prison.

King lost credit for acceptance of responsibility because after he was indicted for the crime to which he pleaded guilty, investigators found four CDs in his garage that contained child and adult pornography mixed in with family photos. Woodcock ruled before imposing the sentence that King had lied when he denied that he knowingly downloaded the pictures.

Neumann recommended Woodcock impose a sentence at the high end of the guidelines. Defense attorney Wayne Foote urged the judge to impose a sentence less severe than the guideline range.

Woodcock acknowledged that the sentencing guidelines for child pornography cases are “harsh and severe” but added, “they are harsh and severe for a reason.” He did not explain why he imposed a sentence outside the guideline range.

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