Commonwealth Journal

September 5, 2013

Whitson asks for leniency in porn case

by Heather Tomlinson
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —

A Pulaski County man facing an upcoming sent-encing hearing for child porn charges has asked that the judge take into account his history of community service and a lack of prior criminal history before handing down a decision. 
Eric Whitson, 35, of Somerset, on Tuesday filed a memorandum through his attorney, R. Michael Murphy, of Lexington, asking that U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves hand down a sentence of no more than 180 months, or about 15 years, during this Friday’s scheduled hearing in U.S. District Court in London. 
“(Whitson) accepts responsibility for his actions and understands that he must be punished,” Murphy states in the memorandum. “At the same time, (Whitson) asks that the Court take the statements of the victim and his father into account when determining an appropriate sentence in this matter.”
Whitson in February pleaded guilty to one count of production of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. He had initially also been charged with two counts of receiving child pornography, but the U.S.  moved to dismiss those charges as part of the plea deal. 
Whitson was arrested on Nov. 21, 2012 by Somerset Police Department detectives and agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation at his home on Cooper Drive in Somerset after evidence of child pornography was found on items taken from Whitson’s home during a search. The arrest came after a two-week joint investigation conducted by SPD and the FBI, which began on Nov. 5 after SPD received a complaint from an alleged adult victim who stated he’d discovered a camera in Whitson’s bathroom.
The camera Whitson used to record the victim was concealed in a black box that sat on the toilet tank. 
The search warrant carried out by SPD on Nov. 5 revealed numerous images showing minors engaged in sexually explicit actions. The plea agreement states that more than 600 such images were found. 
Whitson has remained in custody since his arrest.  
Murphy, in his memorandum filed on Tuesday, pointed to a June 7 memorandum filed by Whitson’s former attorney, Jerry Cox, which included letters in support of Whitson from several members of the Somerset community, including the victim and his father. 
“The victim ... and his father expressed that they thought a sentence requiring incarceration was unnecessary and counterproductive,” states Murphy. “Both suggested that counseling would be a more appropriate remedy given (Whitson’s) background and the nature of the offense ... In fact, the victim’s father also indicated he thought imprisonment would provide no benefit to society and would be unfair given the circumstances.”
As part of the deal, the U.S. will move to recommend 180 months in prison, or about 15 years for Whitson, during his sentencing. The 15-year sentence is a statutory minimum requirement for a conviction of production of child porn. 
Murphy writes in the memorandum that Whitson, who worked with the City of Somerset Parks and Recreation Department for more than 10 years before his arrest, has in the past volunteered “ ... to perform accounting work for Somerset High School, conducted public relations for Lake Cumberland youth football, organized community theater productions, and volunteered to assist with Somerset High School football broadcasts.”
Murphy is asking that Reeves hand down a sentence of no more than the required 180-month prison term. 
“(Whitson) wants nothing more than an opportunity to demonstrate to the Court that he is a productive member of society, and he assures the Court that he will do whatever possible to do so after he is released from custody,” Murphy states. 
Reeves has set Whitson’s sentencing hearing for Sept. 6.