Commonwealth Journal

February 26, 2013

Whitson pleads guilty to child porn charges

By HEATHER TOMLINSON, CJ Staff Writer
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —  

A Somerset man accused of producing, possessing and receiving child pornography pleaded guilty this week to some of those charges in federal court.
Eric Whitson, 35, appeared in U.S. District Court on Tuesday for a re-arraignment on two of the four child pornography charges that had been handed down by a grand jury in December. 
Whitson pleaded guilty to one count of producing child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography. He had also been charged with two counts of receiving child pornography. The U.S. has moved to dismiss the receipt of child porn charges, according to court documents accessed electronically by the Commonwealth Journal. 
Whitson was arrested on November 21 by Somerset Police Department detectives and agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation at his home on Cooper Drive in Somerset. 
Authorities were carrying out a federal arrest warrant based on evidence of child pornography 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 November 5 after SPD received a complaint from an alleged adult victim who stated he’d discovered a camera in Whitson’s bathroom.
An affidavit filed by a federal investigator states that the hidden camera allegedly discovered by the victim — and later obtained by authorities — was allegedly placed in a position where a person could be captured from the waist down. The affidavit states that the recording “could also be viewed in real time from Whitson’s bedroom on a monitor.” Authorities allegedly found a videotaped recording of a 16-year-old male who used the bathroom in Whitson’s home, along with a recording of the victim who made the original complaint.
Along with the recording device, SPD also obtained through a second search warrant computers and multiple forms of digital storage. SPD officers and detectives “searched through hours of VHS tapes, DVDs, and CD-ROMs and found images suspected to be child pornography,” according to Lt. Shannon Smith, with SPD. 
Also allegedly found were several images that showed young males in sexual positions. 
It appears a plea agreement for Whitson was submitted to the court on Tuesday, but the details of that agreement haven’t yet been made available. 
Whitson’s attorney, Jerry J. Cox, based out of Mt. Vernon, was unable to comment on the details of the plea agreement by press time Tuesday. 
Whitson was remanded back into custody after the hearing and transferred to the Laurel County Correctional Center, where he’s been since his arrest. 
A sentencing hearing is set for June 11, 2013. 
U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves is overseeing Whitson’s case.