Commonwealth Journal

February 27, 2013

Whitson facing 15-year sentence

Plea bargain details released

by Heather Tomlinson
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —  

A Somerset man who pleaded guilty this week to child porn charges could be facing 15 years in prison, accord-ing to court doc-uments.
Eric Whitson, 35, appeared in U.S. District Court in London on Tuesday for a re-arraignment and 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. 
The details of a plea deal submitted to the court were unavailable Tuesday, but the documents were provided to the Commonwealth Journal by the U.S. Attorney’s office Wednesday. 
The U.S. will move to recommend 180 months in prison, or about 15 years for Whitson, during his sentencing, which is scheduled for June 11, 2013. 
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.
The plea agreement also contains some details of the case. 
“On or about Oct. 30, 2012, the (d)efendant videotaped in two segments a minor male victim as the victim urinated at the (d)efendant’s residence ... the first and second segments are 45 and 47 seconds long, respectively, and both focus directly on the genitals of the victim,” states the agreement. “The minor was unaware the video was being made.”
The camera Whitson used to record the victim was concealed in a black box that sat on the toilet tank. 
“The camera was positioned at groin height and faced directly over the tank, where a male’s genitals would be expected to be when standing and urinating.”
According to the agreement, the images captured by the recorder could be viewed in real time in Whitson’s bedroom, and Whitson had to start and stop the recorded before and after each segment. 
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. 
“The images were in digital media of various forms (computer hard drives, compact discs, etc.), involved pre-pubescent children and, in some cases, sadistic and/or masochistic conduct,” states the plea agreement.
Whitson was remanded back into custody after Tuesday’s hearing and transferred to the Laurel County Correctional Center, where he’s been since his arrest.  Whitson will also be required to register as a sex offender after his release from prison.
U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves is overseeing Whitson’s case.