PRINCETON — A Glenwood man who pleaded guilty last July to possessing and distributing pictures of minors engaged in sexually-explicit conduct was sentenced Thursday to three years probation with conditions including warrant-less searches of his electronic devices, polygraph tests and no unsupervised conduct with juveniles.
Daniel Lee Cooper, 19, appeared before Judge Mark Wills of the Mercer County Circuit Court for sentencing. Cooper pleaded guilty July 19 to one charge of possession and distribution of images showing minors engaged in sexually-explicit conduct, Prosecuting Attorney George Sitler said.
A criminal complaint filed in September of 2018 by Detective S.M. Severt of the Princeton Police Department shows Cooper was charged with distribution of child pornography.
In late May, Cooper came before Judge Wills to enter a plea to information in an arrangement worked out between the attorneys for the prosecution and the defense. Wills informed the attorneys that he would not accept a plea at that time because he didn’t have a pre-sentencing report. He had been asked also to sentence Cooper during that hearing.
Cooper was found in possession of multiple images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct “after an incident had occurred at the Princeton Senior High School,” Severt wrote in the complaint.
Severt stated in the complaint that a search warrant was executed for Cooper’s cellphone. It was forensically analyzed.
“The analysis documented that Cooper had stored a large quantity of images and showed a history of him distributing the images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct to adults and other minor children,” Severt wrote in the complaint.
Sitler said Thursday that the court had taken the plea under advisement and ordered a pre-sentencing investigation. An attorney was appointed as a guardian ad litem who contacted all the victims and their families regarding their position on the plea, and the terms of the plea agreement.
“The state agreed to deferred adjudication provided there were sex offender specific conditions including warrant-less search of any electronic devices in his possession, sufficient polygraph examinations for the period of supervision,” Sitler said. “He’s not allowed to be in a public school or place where children are present. He’s not allowed unsupervised contact with minors.”
While Cooper is not required now to register as a sex offender, he could be required to register if he violates his probation, Sitler said.
“Now the court accepted the terms of the plea agreement and placed him on three years of probation and he will be supervised under equivalent terms of a sex offender during that period,” Sitler stated. “If he violates any of the terms or conditions the court could revoke the deferred adjudication, adjudicate him guilty and he would be a convicted felon subject to up to two years in prison, he would be then required to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.”
The court ordered Cooper to write apology letters to all the victims and to complete 624 total hours of community service. He also has to be enrolled in a full-time educational program or has to maintain employment. He is currently enrolled as a college student studying engineering, Sitler said.
“There won’t be any further hearings on this unless he has a violation found by the probation department,” Sitler stated.
All the victims were contacted by the guardian ad litem and all of them “were supportive of the resolution,” he said.
“Nobody wanted this case to go to trial, although there were a couple of the victims who had hoped for more punitive measures, the majority of them were satisfied that there is a consequence for Mr. Cooper’s actions in that he’s given up his right to trial and he’s being subjected to court supervision until after his 21st birthday,” Sitler said.
Most of the acts leading to the charges took place when Cooper was 17. He was three months past his 18th birthday when the case initially came to the attention of law enforcement, Sitler said.
Cooper is facing two years in prison if he violates his parole conditions. His criminal record could be changed at a later date.
“Provided that he satisfactorily completes the terms and conditions of the supervision, he would be allowed to withdraw his plea at a future date and he could have his record expunged if he doesn’t get into any further trouble,” Sitler stated.
The charges involved six different juvenile victims. There was no allegation that Cooper took any of the photographs, he said.
“He had pictures that were sent to him. He reposted some of them, he shared those pictures without their authorization,” Sitler added.
“Unfortunately this sort of behavior of sharing naked pictures is all too common among juveniles these days and juveniles need to be aware these things can lead to permanent consequences including lifetime sex offender registration and incarceration. We put on presentations at a couple of our local schools about the need to keep a clean bill of health in terms of your digital footprint,” Sitler said.
— Contact Greg Jordan at firstname.lastname@example.org