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Man who filmed child sex assaults sentenced

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A Sissonville man who filmed himself sexually assaulting children likely will spend the rest of his life in prison. Kanawha Prosecutor Mark Plants says it is the worst case he ever has seen.

Kanawha Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey sentenced Clay Culhane Counts, 50, of Longmeadow Drive, to 55 to 175 years in prison Wednesday.

Plants, who sat in on the hearing, said Counts would be 105 years old when he became eligible for parole in 55 years. 

If Counts was released on parole at that point, he would be under extensive supervision, he  said.

"It's terrible," the prosecutor said Wednesday evening. "It's the worst case I've ever seen."

Counts was charged in September with distribution of child porn.

He was at South Central Regional Jail when detectives with the Kanawha Bureau of Investigation filed additional charges against him in November, alleging he filmed himself assaulting children in his home.

Investigators removed more than a dozen tapes and computer hard drives from the home. Detective Sean Snuffer said in November all of the children in the videos were under 14 years old.

The youngest child involved was 10 at the time.

Detectives said 14 videos were recorded from 2008 to 2011.

Counts pleaded guilty in March to three counts of first-degree sexual assault, three counts of sexual abuse by a guardian, and one count of use of minors in filming sexually explicit conduct.

"He was watching the children in his home at 1975 Longmeadow Road when these events occurred," Assistant Prosecutor Erica Lord told Bailey in March. "And he videotaped these three children performing oral sex on him, with each other and him on them."

At first, Counts denied that he was aware the video system was in use.

"Did you know these acts were being filmed?" the judge then asked him.

"I knew after the fact, yes," he said. "That the security system kicked on. And when I saw the tape."

Lord told the court that Counts was aware of the camera.

"The camera was activated by a light switch," Lord said. "He knew they were being taped. One of the boys in one video turned off the lights and he told him, 'Don't turn off the lights!' "

Counts told the judge the children were playing truth or dare.

"They asked me to engage in a game with them and regrettably I did," Counts said in March. "I did engage in an act of sexual intercourse."

Plants said Wednesday that the sentence handed down was one of the lengthiest he had heard in his time as prosecutor.

"Defendants like him are the reason prisons are built and electric chairs are used," Plants said.

Writer Cheryl Caswell contributed to this report.

Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at or 304-348-4850.

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