BANGOR, Maine — Felony child pornography possession charges against a local lawyer were reduced on Friday in a plea agreement after investigators were unable to determine if the children pictured were under the age of 12, the prosecutor said in court.
Richard D. Violette, 53, of Bangor — who was suspended from the practice of law earlier this week — entered a guilty plea on Friday for the misdemeanor charge of possession of sexually explicit material, which was decreased from a Class C felony under the plea agreement. He was sentenced to six months in jail.
“There were approximately 13 images that appear to be child pornography,” Michael Roberts, deputy district attorney for Penobscot County, told District Court Judge John Lucy. “There is some issue if they [the children pictured] are under the age of 12.”
There are significant increases in penalties for offenses involving prepubescent children. Violette originally faced up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000 and would have been required to register as a sex offender, but with the misdemeanor charge only faced up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. He will not have to register as a sex offender.
In exchange for pleading guilty, “The court will approve the agreed upon disposition of six months in jail and the forfeiture of the computer equipment [that contained the explicit images],” Lucy said.
Bangor police began investigating Violette after another law enforcement agency linked his IP address to the downloading of known child pornography and investigators found child pornography on computers seized from his Broadway home in April, Roberts has said.
Violette on Monday was suspended temporarily from practicing law for illegal conduct, improper communication and conduct involving dishonesty, according to information posted on the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar website.
Violette does not have a criminal record, according to the Maine State Bureau of Identification and Criminal History Record, but was reprimanded in 1991 by the Board of Overseers of the Bar for his actions with a minor, according to information posted on the board’s website. Violette acknowledged that he had given a minor alcohol, according to a previously published report.
Violette was reprimanded again in January 1996 for failing to file an appeal on behalf of a client who was sentenced to 12 years in prison on a drug conviction in 1985.
Violette also was given a short stay of execution of his sentence, requested by his attorney Jeffrey Silverstein, to allow him to finish up some contract work early next week. He is out on bail and must turn himself in at Penobscot County Jail by 9 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13, the judge ordered.
BDN reporter Judy Harrison contributed to this story.