Kenai man sentenced on child porn charges

A 67-year-old Kenai man was sentenced Monday at the Kenai Courthouse to 5 years and 95 days of jail time for possessing more than 100 photographs and a few videos of child pornography.

 

During the sentencing, Superior Court Judge Carl Bauman said he wanted to be clear that the defendant, Richard Miller, received his sentence for possessing child porn and not for an alleged sexual interest in young boys or an interest in a nudist lifestyle. Throughout the case, authorities claimed Miller may have sexually abused three boys under his care, but he was never charged with sexual abuse.


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"Possession of child pornography involves the exploitation of children by someone, somewhere," Bauman said. "But cross crime comparison shows it's less serious than the actual molestation of children, for which the defendant was not charged.

The prosecution and the defense argued at length during the three-hour sentencing. Defense attorney Randall Cavanaugh called three witnesses to the stand, including Miller's two sons and one of the boys the defendant looked after, before turning to sentence remarks. The state argued each piece of evidence stands alone, and none was more or less worse than others; the defense argued Miller's ownership of a computer hard drive containing the child porn was constructed possession — authorities deemed the property Miller’s responsibility because it was found in his home.

A jury decided in January that Miller was the owner of evidence presented in court during a weeklong trial and delivered 116 guilty verdicts. As the guilty verdicts indicate, they believed that the defendant owned the hard drive. Two of the charges stem from Miller having someone get rid of another computer while he was incarcerated.

Miller appeared in court in cuffs, wearing a yellow Wildwood Correctional Center jumpsuit. He has remained at Wildwood since his trial ended in late January.

Before sentencing began, both parties questioned Miller about his relationship with three boys. An investigation began in 2007 when the sister of one of the boys told police Miller liked to get the boys naked, either through coercion or bribery. 

Miller and the three boys have said nothing inappropriate happened between them.

Assistance District Attorney Kelly Lawson asked Miller whether he took nude pictures of the three boys. She also asked him if he visited specific child porn sites. He denied doing any of those things.

She also asked Miller if he tried to buy the boys' silence with gifts and money.

"I suggest you ask all of them," he said, "but, no."

She continued to ask Miller questions regarding his relationship with the boys, but Miller denied any wrongdoing. The defendant also stated his health was declining, so it was hard to piece together events from the past.

Cavanaugh asked his client whether or not he had "sexual leanings" toward any of the boys.

Miller responded that the boys were under his care because their family lives consisted of abuse and neglect.

"That's the last thing I would ever do; it's the most destructive thing for them I could think of," he said.

Miller's sons took the stand and answered another round of questions. Both sons said their childhood was excellent and their father showed no signs of sexual inclinations toward young boys when they were growing up.

One of the boys named in court records said during the sentencing that Miller provided for him when his mother failed to do so.

"He never displayed any sexual interest in me or any of the other boys around his residence," he said.

Although the beginnings of the sentencing focused on the three boys, the parties' closing remarks mainly focused on the child porn.

Lawson argued the children in the photos were victims, too. Evidence suggests the photos belonged to Miller, and the jury came to the same conclusion.

"To say that the crime isn't as heinous because (Miller) didn't touch these children is offensive," she said.

His interest in young boys is not fleeting, she added, as literature found in the defendant's home detailed sexual abuse of minors and how minors are affected by such abuse.

Authorities brought Miller's charges through one indictment, which listed hundreds of counts of possession of child porn, despite their inability to confirm that Miller accessed the seized hard drive or viewed the lewd videos, Cavanaugh argued.

"They tried numerous times to find prints but never found any," he said.

The court should consider a shorter period of incarceration, Cavanaugh further argued, because Miller possessed pictures but did not abuse any children.

"Not a moment of testimony says that he looked at the porn," Cavanaugh said. "Everyone had access to the computers. Maybe the lesson is don't let people have uncontrolled access to everything in your home."

Miller chose to speak to the court before Judge Bauman imposed his sentence. He said he is frightened and appalled by what he claims was abuse by authorities who handled the case. He said he and the three boys have filed a civil lawsuit against officers at the Kenai Police Department involved in the case.

He also spoke about his ongoing relationship with the boys.

"I'm proud to have seen these men grow up, and feel blessed to have had them in my life," he said. "They are part of my legacy, and no one can take that heritage away from me."

Bauman formed his opinion of the case after years of hearings. There is no evidence of inappropriate sexual contact, he said. Miller, however, was in possession of child porn. Bauman did not speculate on the contents of the other computer Miller had removed while in jail.

"These two binders contain child porn," the judge said, pointing to two thick binders resting before him in court. "Young, male genitalia are the focus of these photos. The videos, in particular, are vile."

Miller's prospects for rehabilitation are good, Bauman said.

The defendant's conditions of probation include fines, mandatory rehabilitation and lifetime registration as a sex offender.

Miller and his attorney both alluded to intentions of filing an appeal.

Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at jerzy.shedlock@peninsulaclarion.com.

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