AUBURN — A Lewiston man pleaded guilty Tuesday in court to two felony counts of possession of child pornography after related federal charges were dropped.
Marcel L. Bernard, 64, of 20 Bates St. pleaded guilty in Androscoggin County Superior Court to two counts of Class C possession of sexually explicit materials, each count punishable by up to five years in prison.
Justice MaryGay Kennedy sentenced Bernard to six months in jail on each count, the two sentences to run concurrently. Both sentences were suspended; he is not expected to serve any time in jail. He'll spend the next two years on probation.
Bernard had been charged in February in Maine District Court in Portland with possession of child pornography stemming from a sting operation conducted by U.S. Postal Inspection Service agents.
He had been interviewed a week before his arrest by a Lewiston detective and a postal inspector about his response to an undercover operation aimed at targeting patrons of child pornography. Investigators searched his home and found "numerous VHS tapes, four Super 8 reels, printed photos of young children in the nude" along with a letter addressed to Bernard from the undercover operation and a letter he addressed to the operation.
He was released on his personal recognizance.
The federal charge was dropped earlier this summer with the understanding that Bernard would plead guilty to related state charges. Had he been convicted in federal court, he would have faced a sentence of between 10 and 20 years in prison.
Assistant Attorney General Kate Lawrence said Tuesday that, had Bernard's case gone to trial, the state would have presented evidence showing that the U.S. postal inspector and a Lewiston detective went to Bernard's home where they found two Super 8 movies purchased in the 1970s that depicted people engaged in sex acts and that Bernard knew or should have known an actor in the movie was younger than 12.
Asked by Kennedy whether Bernard agreed with Lawrence's narrative, he said he thought the movie dated back to 1969, but that otherwise her account was factual.
"Are you pleading guilty because you are guilty?" the judge asked.
"Yes, your honor," he nodded.
Bernard was previously convicted of sexual abuse of a minor, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Portland.
During his probation, Bernard is barred from:
* possessing sexually explicit materials;
* accessing the Internet;
* having contact with children younger than 18, except for family members, with whom supervised visits with an adult are allowed.
Bernard also must register as a sex offender for a decade, Kennedy said.
As a convicted felon, Bernard won't be allowed to use a firearm, Kennedy said.
Because Bernard agreed to his conviction and sentence, he won't be allowed to appeal either one, Kennedy said.