May 20, 2018
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Man who suffered stroke as infant gets 2½ years for having photos of naked teens on his phone

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff

PORTLAND, Maine — A Yarmouth man who suffered a stroke when he was 9 months old was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court to 2½ years in federal prison on one count of possession of child pornography.

Ronald Grant Thurston III, 25, waived indictment and pleaded guilty to the charge in July. By pleading guilty, Thurston admitted that he had sexually explicit photographs of two minor naked females on his cellphone.

Thurston, who has been charged with gross sexual assault of a minor in Cumberland County, told investigators that he took the pictures and had sex with the girls when they were 15 and 13 respectively, according to court documents. He was arrested by South Portland police in January.

He faced up to 10 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Under the prevailing federal sentencing guidelines, Thurston’s recommended sentence was between four years and three months and five years and three months.

U.S. District Judge George Singal granted a defense motion for a variant sentence below the guideline range, Thurston’s attorney, Bruce Merrill of Portland, said after the sentence was imposed.

“I think the judge agreed this was not the typical child pornography case,” the lawyer said.

The stroke left Thurston with both neurological and psychological impairments, Merrill said in his motion. He was deemed learning disabled and attended special education classes at Yarmouth High School, from which he graduated in 2011.

Since then, Thurston has worked as a fire support person for the Yarmouth Fire Department and done snow plowing and lawn care work for people in Yarmouth, Merrill wrote. The defense attorney urged Singal to impose a 24-month sentence.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Chapman recommended a prison term of three to four years, he said after the sentencing.

In addition to 30 months behind bars, Singal sentenced Thurston to five years of supervised release. He also will be required to register as a sex offender.

Thurston, who is being held at the Cumberland County Jail, faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000 on the state charge of gross sexual assault.

Information about that case was not available Wednesday from the Cumberland County District Attorney’s Office.

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