CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A former Ripley police officer tearfully admitted in federal court Monday he sent pornographic images to an underage girl who he also had been accused of harassing after their sexual relationship ended.
George Michael Puskas II, 31, pleaded guilty by way of information to possession of child pornography Monday afternoon before U.S. District Judge John Copenhaver in Charleston. In exchange for the plea, prosecutors dropped a handful of other charges against him.
Puskas resigned from the Ripley Police Department in 2012 amid allegations he'd behaved inappropriately while on the job. He was on the force for nearly four years.
He wore a dark-colored suit as he stood in the courtroom Monday. His family sat directly behind him.
He said he'd had a sexual relationship with a girl from the time she was 16 to 18 and that there was video of one of their sexual encounters. He said he sent her at least a dozen photos of himself and that she'd done the same.
In September 2011, five months after she broke up with him, he sent her a photo of them having sex. She was living in Virginia at the time, having fled his advances, according to court documents.
"I sent her one picture of us together," he said.
"Engaged in sexual intercourse?" Copenhaver asked.
"Yes, your honor," Puskas answered.
Puskas began to cry when Copenhaver told him he could possibly face the maximum sentence for the charge -- 10 years in federal prison. A woman believed to be his wife began to sob when the judge said Puskas may have to register as a sex offender for life.
"Mr. Puskas swore an oath to protect and serve the community," U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said in a statement. "He obviously failed to uphold that oath.
"Pedophiles like Mr. Puskas must be held accountable when they commit disgraceful crimes like this one."
Puskas was first indicted in January on charges of enticing a minor into sexually explicit conduct to produce child porn, possession of child porn and receiving child porn.
But those charges were dismissed in April when a superceding indictment was filed adding transmitting child porn and traveling across state lines with intent to kill, injure, harass and intimidate a person known to the grand jury.
He was then charged in June with possession of child porn. A guilty plea hearing was scheduled soon after.
As part of the plea agreement, Jackson County Prosecutor Kenny Skeen agreed not to prosecute Puskas on any state charges relating to the State Police investigation, according to court documents.