No jail for child porn

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AUBURN – A judge Monday suspended an eight-year prison sentence for Regis F. Lepage, a former business executive and drag racer, saying he created his own prison by downloading and sending child pornography.

“Let it not be said Mr. Lepage bought himself out of a very serious matter,” said Androscoggin County Superior Court Justice Donald Marden in handing down the sentence.

Lepage, 53, of 731 Hotel Road in Auburn and former vice president of Lepage Bakeries, New England’s largest independent bakery, was dressed in a blue suit. Standing at a table in the sweltering Law Library at the back of the Androscoggin County Courthouse, he nodded as Marden explained the terms of the sentence.

“Mr. Lepage, you’ve created your own prison,” Marden said.

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By agreement, Lepage didn’t contest the charges of one count of dissemination and seven charges of possession of child porn. Police recovered 35 photographs and 62 video clips from Lepage’s computers. Prosecutors agreed to cap at five years the time Lepage would serve of an eight-year sentence. As part of that agreement, Lepage was allowed to argue for a lesser prison term. And he did.

Lepage admitted his guilt in a 10-minute statement he read to the judge, his voice quavering at times. He said he understood that viewing child pornography was not a victimless crime, that innocent children are exploited in its making.

“For those children, I am deeply sorry for what I have done,” he said.

He also apologized to his wife, who testified Monday on his behalf, as well as his family and the community. Several of his friends read statements supporting Lepage.

He said his life had changed since 2005, and he is not the same person since that year when police seized evidence of the crimes from his computers.

At age 42, he had been diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety.

He has completed a six-week residential program in Pennsylvania for sex offenders. He also has been getting counseling from a licensed clinical social worker in Portland, he said.

But he told the judge he realizes he has more work to do on the road to recovery.

He offered to work on the extensive renovation of the Sisters of Charity Food Pantry at Bates and Walnut streets in downtown Lewiston. That would serve the community better than being locked behind bars would, he said.

“I hope and pray that the court agrees,” he said.

It did. Marden said Lepage would have to serve 4,000 hours working on the project, pounding nails and wielding a paintbrush.

Conditions during Lepage’s probation also include:

• sex offender treatment;

• no access to a computer or the Internet;

• no possession of pornography;

• 10-year registration as a sex offender; and

• submitting a DNA sample.

In arguing for no prison time, Lepage’s attorney, William Cote of Lewiston, said his client had accepted responsibility for his crimes. He also noted that Lepage never met with any minors nor did he contact or attempt to contact any children using the Internet.

Instead, he collected and, on some occasions, sent images to other adults engaged in the same activities, Cote said.

Dr. Carol Ball testified Monday for Lepage. She’s a leading expert on issues involving the diagnosis and treatment of sexually compulsive disorders. She said she conducted a psychological and sexual evaluation of Lepage.

During the eight hours she spent with him, she discovered he became obsessed by a book he read at age 9 or 10 about a woman who gave an 8-year-old child to a man as his prostitute. “It’s something he fixed on throughout his adult life,” Ball said. Lepage set about searching for that child on his Internet quest, she said.

Although she conceded there is no cure for Lepage’s disorder, she said, “I think he’s well along the path to recovery.”

The Portland counselor, Stephen Thomas, testified Monday that he was impressed by the progress so far.

“I don’t think that anyone could do better than Mr. Lepage has done,” he said.

Assistant District Attorney Deborah Cashman had argued that Lepage serve five years of the eight-year sentence in prison.

The sheer number of images Lepage collected combined with the ages of the children (as young as 3 years old) and the explicit nature of the pornographic sex acts involving adults, were aggravating factors, she said.

Cashman said after court that the law allows for up to 10 years in prison for the charge of dissemination, a class B felony, but actual sentences vary widely from no imprisonment to several years, depending on the circumstances surrounding the offenses.

“I think that’s the difficulty in sentencing on these types of crimes because there is such a large range of sentences that are being imposed right now,” she said. “It’s hard to point to a particular number.

“I will continue to prosecute these cases and continue to seek sentences I think are appropriate recognizing that this is an area of law that is in great flux right now as to what people are getting and what appropriate sentences are.”

Auburn police Chief Philip Crowell said he was surprised that Lepage wouldn’t serve jail time.

“I’m really disappointed by the sentence and shocked,” he said. “It’s unfortunate.”

Crowell said his department spent more than 100 hours working on the investigation that led to the charges. Not sentencing Lepage to prison “sends the wrong message” from the state, which he said has passed tough laws for sex-related crimes involving minors.


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