Richard Watts, 39, came before the Honorable Kim Cudney, Chief Judge of the 12th Judicial District Court for Sentencing this Friday morning in Mitchell County District Court. The Defense Attorney for the case was Sara Swain from the Swain Law Office in Lawrence, Kansas. The State of Kansas was represented by Mitchell County Attorney, Mark J. Noah, as the Prosecuting Attorney.
The Judge stated that on August 9, 2012, the defendant entered into a plea of no contest to Count 1 of sexual exploitation of a child, a level 5, person felony and waived his right to a trial by jury that was already set to take place. The State had earlier filed a motion to charge Watts with 2 counts of indecent liberties with a child, a criminal personal felony and 4 counts of contributing to the misconduct of a child, a Class A Criminal Misdemeanor. Following an agreement between Attorney Swain and Attorney Noah, the Judge agreed to waive complaints two and three with prejudice. These charges took place between March 1, 2010 and September 2010. This case has a criminal rate of I and is a Border Box Offence.
Attorney Swain filed a motion today to allow the defendant to be placed on Probation and the State had no objection to this action. Swain said Mr. Watts was completely prepared to go forth with his trial until the State made the offer of the plea bargain. She argued that the only evidence the State had of his guilt was the statement Watts made at the end of the video that had been shown in court. Most of the evidence centered around sites on the computer and the Internet that he visited on line, she said.
Swain admitted there was evidence enough a jury could have convicted the defendant so when accepting the plea bargain Watts had to choose what he felt was the best choice for his children. He was not willing to take a chance of being sent to prison in a jury trial. She asked that shock time not be imposed and stressed that he had never been in any trouble with the law before, not even a traffic violation.
Part of the plea bargain was the recommendation by the State that Watts go to a Sex-Offender Management Program and Swain told the Judge he was agreeable to do that. Swain admitted there are issues that need to be confronted to be sure this does not happen again. She said Mr. Watts wants to be able to get back to work and support his children. His mother, three of his children and his brother were present in the courtroom and would be willing to testify for him, Swain said. The Judge questioned why the defendant would want to do this but his answer was not audible enough to be heard.
Judge Cudney sentenced Watts to 32 months probation time with the Department of Corrections, lifetime post relief because one of the victims was less than 14 years of age. She gave him credit for 13 days of incarceration. She said the Sex Offender Management Program is more likely to be helpful in a case this than imprisonment. She did not order Watts to spend 60 days in the county jail because of his need to get back to work to pay off his court costs and make a living for his family. Since the defendant has had no prior criminal charges filed against him the Judge granted the Probation motion. However, the Judge reminded Watts that this is a Border Box Matter so he must abide the rules. If he comes before the court again there will be no question, he will automatically be sent to prison.
He must complete the Sex Offender Management Program and pay for all costs. He must be subject to the clerk of the court or any police officer for any reasonable search. He is not to take any drugs or alcohol or other mood altering substance and will spend 48 hours in the county jail for any positive tests or for any missed appointment with the court officer. He is to do 50 hours of community service and secure gainful employment. He must register as a sex offender and adhere to travel restrictions imposed by the court officer. He is not to possess any pornographic material of any kind for any reason.
Judge Cudney ruled that Watts is to have no contact with his children unless and until the court officer feels it is safe for him to do so. He is not to reside with or have any contact with his victim. If he violates any for these restrictions he will do prison time. Attorney Swain said the Judge to clarify this statement since he has been able to have supervised contact with his children in the past. The Judge said she meant what she said; he is to have no contact with his children until the Officer of the Court feels that it is safe for him to do so.
"You can't come back and play games as you have several times in the past. If you do come back before the court I will not be so kind and considerate as I have in the past. The decision is now in your hands whether you come back to court or be able to take part in your families' life," the Judge told Watts.
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