AUBURN — A judge is expected to impose sentence Friday on a former city councilor who pleaded guilty last year to three child sex crimes.
Prosecutors are seeking to have Joshua Shea, 39, of Auburn spend five years in prison. Shea will be seeking a fully suspended sentence.
Shea admitted in May to downloading pornographic images of children under age 12 and coaxed a 14-year-old California girl to perform sex acts on live video, which he recorded.
He was indicted by an Androscoggin County grand jury on 12 child pornography charges, eight months after he was arrested at his home and charged with a single count of possession of child pornography.
He has remained free on bail on the condition that he have no contact with children under the age of 18. He entered an out-of-state, long-term treatment facility.
In May 2015, Shea admitted to three charges in the plea deal to dismiss the remaining nine charges. The most serious of the charges, sexual exploitation of a minor, is a Class B felony punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a $20,000 fine.
The possession charges are Class C felonies, each punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Shea agreed to a maximum term of 10 years in prison, but would be allowed to argue for less. He also agreed to serve at least two years of probation.
In court documents, Androscoggin County District Attorney Andrew Robinson wrote that he plans to argue Friday that Shea should be sentenced to 10 years in prison, with half of that time suspended, a period mandated by state law for the crime of sexual exploitation of a minor. The only exception to that required five-year minimum is “that the exceptional features of the case justify the imposition of another sentence,” and must be detailed by the sentencing judge. Robinson said that prison time should be followed by two years of probation.
David Van Dyke, Shea’s attorney, wrote in his sentencing brief that the court should impose a sentence of seven years, all suspended, followed by three years of probation.
Van Dyke wrote that Shea had been “a pillar of the community who was haunted by the demon of addiction.”
At the time of his arrest, Shea was a board member of the Lewiston Education Fund and the Lewiston-Auburn Economic Growth Council. He was elected to the Auburn City Council in 2011 and served until May 2013, during the same time that law enforcement officials say he was downloading pornographic images.
Shea was publisher of Lewiston Auburn Magazine, a post from which he was fired, after his arrest. He also was co-founder of the Lewiston Auburn Film Festival, which folded after his arrest. Weeks later, a different film festival — Emerge — was founded under new management.
He was also a former member of the board of the Great Falls Balloon Festival, resigning in 2011 before he was elected to the City Council.
Van Dyke argued in his written brief that Shea, after his arrest, “sought out a series of immediate, intensive serial treatments” in California, Maine and Texas.
“Mr. Shea has exposed himself to the intensive scrutiny and input of a number of highly qualified professionals,” Van Dyke wrote.
“The professionals who have considered Mr. Shea, his constellation of issues and the actions which he has undertaken to address those issues, strongly urge the court not to incarcerate Mr. Shea,” Van Dyke wrote.
One therapist from Palm Springs, Calif., who specializes in sexual addiction, said in an interview that jailing Shea “would be the precisely wrong outcome in this case,” Van Dyke wrote. It would “destroy the ‘good,’ which has animated much of Mr. Shea’s life to this point,” he wrote. “Mr. Shea poses no societal risk of recidivism.”
By contrast, in his brief, Robinson wrote that “it is difficult to describe the nightmare that these victims (of child pornography) must suffer through in order to provide the sexual pleasure that collectors of child pornography gain from downloading the material. The impact on the nameless victim of child pornography should be considered by the court.”
When interviewed by investigators, Shea admitted that what he was doing was wrong, Robinson wrote. Shea’s search for child pornography was intentional. He said he would often search for images of children who were 7 or 8 years of age with the hope of satisfying his desire to view sexually explicit images of 13- or 14-year-old children.
That evidence shows that Shea was someone who “harbors a sexual desire for minors.”
Moreover, Robinson pointed to Shea’s “deceptive behavior” used “to manipulate minors.”
Shea posed on the Internet as a young man named Anthony Makus.
“The defendant would then engage in conversation with the victims with the goal of gaining their trust and eventually trying to get them to remove their clothing and engage in masturbation,” Robinson wrote. “The defendant would then record the sessions by using screen capture software or have the victim take pictures of herself, which he kept for his private collection.”
The judge should also consider Shea’s “betrayal of the community and organizations” in which he played a prominent role.
Although the exploitation charge carries a mandatory minimum five-year sentence, Active Retired Justice Joyce Wheeler, who is presiding over the case, has the discretion to reduce that time if the defense offers proof of mitigating circumstances.
Prosecutors said at Shea’s plea hearing in May 2015 that in November 2013, a detective with the state’s Computer Crimes Task Force began an investigation into downloads of hundreds of pornographic images, identified an IP address for those downloads and tracked that address to Shea’s home computer. A search warrant was executed March 20, 2014, at Shea’s home, where Shea admitted he had been downloading the pornography for two to three years.
Investigators found that Shea would download large groups of photos of children ranging in age from 2 to 14, and would delete the photos of the children under 5, keeping the remaining photos.
In addition, Shea had posed as a 20-year-old male model living in Miami on a Skype-like video and as a 17-year-old student who had recently relocated to Maine. In his student persona, he contacted a 14-year-old girl in Orange County, Calif., and encouraged her to take off her clothes on live video and to send him nude images of herself. Eventually, he convinced her to perform live sex acts, which he then recorded.
Probation conditions outlined by Robinson and Van Dyke include no unsupervised contact with anyone under age 18 (with the possible exception of his children) and no use of possession of any Internet-connected device, except as needed at work and only under supervision.
Shea worked part time in the Sun Journal sports department from 1993 to 1997. He was a full-time newsroom employee from 1997 to 2000.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to correct Shea’s date of service on the Great Falls Balloon Festival Board of Directors.