Sissonville man avoids prison term for child porn
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A Sissonville man avoided a possible prison sentence after viewing child pornography that his attorney said "just popped up" on his home computer.
But Chester Wilkinson, 58, was placed on two years of probation with counseling and another five years of additional court supervision. He will have to register for life as a sexual offender and give up his computers and any device that could connect to the Internet.
Prosecutors argued strongly for a penitentiary sentence, but Kanawha Circuit Court Judge Paul Zakaib decided it wasn't appropriate.
His attorney, John Mitchell, described Wilkinson as a "pillar of society who lives a good, Christian life" and never previously faced allegations of inappropriate behavior with children or anyone.
"He is always there to help anybody," Mitchell said. "He has a master's degree, he's a veteran, he raised his daughter by himself. Simply by pushing a few buttons on his computer, he now finds himself in this situation.
"A man with a computer sitting up a holler in his own home found a couple sites," the attorney said. "It's a 21st century phenomenon that you can sit in your living room and these sites are that easy to find.
"There are no caveats or red flags," Mitchell said. "He's a felon now for what he opened up on his computer in his own home."
Authorities were notified when Wilkinson took his computer to a shop for repair, and the images were discovered.
"I did it," Wilkinson told the judge. "I'm sorry."
But Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Meadows was angered by Mitchell's portrayal of Wilkinson as one who accidentally viewed the images of children in sexual situations.
"This is not something where he just clicked a button on the Internet," she said. "He downloaded these images. There were images on a CD. This isn't just something that just magically started popping up on his computer.
"He continues to minimize his behavior and act like he's not doing anything wrong, that the computer did," she said. "He is not the computer's victim."
But Zakaib said Wilkinson's otherwise clean record and character mattered.
"I don't think because a person has viewed something like this it is an automatic penitentiary sentence," the judge said. "I think it's deplorable this kind of stuff is on computers; then again, this did not involve any conduct on his part."
Meadows said the children in the images had been identified and the producers of the pornography prosecuted.
Wilkinson could have been sentenced to up to two years in prison.
Contact writer Cheryl Caswell at email@example.com or 304-348-4832.