Former Minister Gets 4 Years For Possessing Child Porn
By CASEY KNAUPP
Friday, June 22, 2007
Former Jacksonville minister Joshua Allen was sentenced to four years in federal prison Thursday for possessing more than 600 images of child pornography
The 23-year-old, who faced up to 10 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to the charge, said he now has the opportunity to become a part of the solution to the problem.
Allen pleaded guilty Jan. 4 to possessing material involving the sexual exploitation of a minor. He admitted that on Sept. 21 in Anderson County he possessed a personal computer with a hard disk containing more than 600 visual depictions of minors.
He was a minister at the Tyler Street Baptist Church in Jacksonville until he resigned after his arrest Oct. 16 at his residence, the church parsonage located adjacent to the church.
"I stand here today a man full of regret," Allen told U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis before he was sentenced Thursday. He talked about the hurt and disappointment he caused so many people who trusted him.
Allen apologized to his family, Christian friends and church members, who, he said, have responded with so much compassion. He also apologized to the court.
"I sincerely hope you consider that I'm 23 and I have an opportunity of giving, to become a part of the solution to the problem. I feel I can do so," he told the judge.
Davis said he considered the nature of the offense, an insidious crime, as well as Allen's past history. He told Allen he was a full participant in the tragedy and although he may not have thought he was causing anyone any harm, it causes irreparable harm to some of the weakest members of society.
But, Davis said, Allen had no past criminal history and was a minister at the time of the offense. Since his conviction, the church has spoken highly of Allen, he said, adding that he received 26 letters from family and friends in support.
The defendant had a lot of contact with children through the church but there was no evidence he had any inappropriate sexual contact with any youth and the offense seemed to be an isolated incident in an otherwise good life, Davis said.
After the judge announced the sentence, Allen held hands with his attorney, John Heath Jr., of Nacogdoches, and family members in the courtroom began to cry.
"Do you realize the mercy the court has shown you?" Davis asked.
"Absolutely," Allen replied.
The judge told him he thought Allen could be the type of person who could become a real advocate to educate the public and keep others from falling into the same trap he did.
Davis said Allen must register as a sex offender and could not have any unsupervised contact with children younger than 18 during the three years of supervised release he must serve after his prison term.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Allen Hurst represented the government on Thursday, standing in for Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregg Marchessault.
Marchessault said earlier that the material in Allen's case involved prepubescent minors, portrayed sadistic or masochistic material and involved 600 or more images and distribution of child pornography.
Allen was also charged in the two-count indictment with distributing child pornography on Aug. 26 in Gregg County.
A criminal complaint affidavit stated that Allen possessed more than 2,000 images of child pornography.
On Sept. 21, a search warrant was executed at Allen's home by federal agents and the Longview Police Department's Cyber Crimes Unit. Two laptops were found and Allen admitted that they contained child pornography that he downloaded from the Internet, according to the affidavit.
On one laptop, authorities discovered 60 files containing pictures and videos of underage males and females, some of whom have been identified by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as being from Brazil. On the second laptop, more than 2,000 images of child pornography were discovered, the affidavit stated.
According to earlier reports, Allen had also served as a choir director at the Tyler Street Baptist Church, where he gave private music lessons to students. He sang in the All-State Choir in 2000 and he won the Jacksonville Music Teachers Association's Student of the Year award from 1999 to 2001.
Casey Knaupp covers county, state and federal courts. She can be reached at 903.596.6289. e-mail: email@example.com
SNAP Note: Tyler Street Baptist Church in Jacksonville, TX is shown as an SBC-affiliated church.