On November, 22, 32-year-old Nicholas S. Jernigan was sentenced to nine months in prison for possessing child pornography. Judge Brent Robinson of Richard County Common Pleas, gave Jernigan prison time for pleading guilty pandering obscenity involving a minor and five years’ probation for nine other counts. During the plea hearing Judge Robinson explained that the pandering obscenity involving a minor charges related to “material or performance involving obscene material that has a minor as one of its participants” while the pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor charges relate to someone who did “receive, exchange, possess any material that shows a minor participant engaging in sexual activity masturbation or bestiality.”
Initially, Jernigan faced a total of 35 charges, including 20 charges of pandering obscenity involving a minor, 10 counts of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material and 5 charges of possessing criminal tools. The state dismissed most of his charges in exchange for a guilty plea. Three computers, a hard drive, and an iPhone were seized from Jernigan by officers with the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation during a search on his property. Jernigan agreed to forfeit the seized items during his plea hearing.
In his defense Jernigan said that he visited several websites on the dark web out of “boredom” and “the content in question presented itself.” His reason for visiting the dark web was that he was in search of newer technology not available to him. He pleaded with the judge to give him a chance to prove that he was a good man, explaining that he recently became a father and wished to be an active father.
“I know I made a lot of mistakes, I don’t know how I ended up where I ended up. I’m absolutely ashamed, I don’t have the impulse, that compulsion. I don’t want any part of it. It has no place in my life. Just give me a chance to prove the man that I am,” Jernigan said.
Jernigan’s attorney, James Mayer III said Jernigan did not physically harm any child or create the pornography. The defense had paid for an evaluation that indicated Jernigan was partly in denial. “Despite the obvious seriousness of this conduct, he is still deserving of a chance at community control,” Mayer said.
The prosecution on its part lobbied for a significant prison sentence, a maximum of 15 years behind bars for Jernigan. Assistant Prosecutor Brandon Pigg cited a part of Jernigan’s evaluation that indicated his sexual history included using child stimuli for arousal.
“He said he engaged in that conduct out of boredom which I find incomprehensible. These are things that are sought for out for sexual gratification, you find these things; they don’t find you.” Pigg said.
The prosecution also stated that the authorities had recovered 100,000 photos and 300 videos from the defendant’s computer material.
In the end Judge Robinson settled for the split sentence and also fined Jernigan $1,000.