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Riled that a prominent Auburn businessman got no prison time as part of his sentence for a child porn conviction, a state senator is calling for a look at mandatory minimums.

“Short of actually molesting a child, this is very, very serious,” Bill Diamond, D-Windham, said Wednesday. “To exclude any jail time sends a horrific message to the public.”

Justice Donald Marden sentenced Regis F. Lepage on Monday to eight years, all suspended, after LePage agreed to plead guilty to one count of dissemination and seven charges of possession of child porn. Instead of going to prison, Lepage must undergo counseling, register as a sex offender, perform 4,000 hours of community service and serve four years of probation.

Police found 35 explicit photos and 65 video clips, involving kids as young as 3, on Lepage’s computers.

Members of the Maine Computer Crimes Task Force, which investigated the case, said they couldn’t remember another child porn conviction that didn’t include time behind bars.

“Obviously, we’re a little taken aback no jail was imposed,” said task force chairman and Lewiston police Chief William Welch. Two days after the sentence was handed down, he said he’d already received a couple of calls from legislators.

“Judges are allowed to use discretion, and in most cases they get it right,” he said. “Sometimes discretion is just too wide. There has to be some account when you are preying on people who are basically defenseless.”

Maine Supreme Court Chief Justice Leigh Saufley said she couldn’t comment on the case or sentence. Justice Marden didn’t return a message seeking comment on Wednesday.

Lepage, who lives in Auburn, is the former vice president of Lepage Bakeries, the largest independent bakery in New England and a well-known landmark in downtown Lewiston.

Diamond questioned how much Lepage’s standing affected his punishment.

“If he were baking the bread instead of the executive, it makes you wonder if there would have been a difference,” he said.

At an upcoming September meeting of the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee he chairs, Diamond said he will raise the question of whether there’s a need for mandatory minimum sentences in child porn cases. He said just talking about a mandatory minimum for crimes against children – a bill that ultimately didn’t make it through the Legislature – has resulted in stiffer sentences in Maine courts over the past 18 months.

Diamond said one study found that 80 percent of people who view child porn eventually abuse children.

“Somebody’s missed the message on online child pornography,” he said.

The Maine Computer Crimes unit took more than 300 complaints last year – one-third of those involved child pornography. State Police Sgt. Glenn Lang said that type of crime is “absolutely” on the rise here.

“We see a fairly wide range of sentencing,” Lang said. “The federal (system) is much, much, much more aggressive when it comes to sentencing people.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is so busy it generally only wants child porn cases with aggravating circumstances, he said, like soliciting or trafficking, but that isn’t always true.

State Rep. Janet Mills, D-Farmington, a former district attorney, refused to “second-guess” Lepage’s sentence, but said mandatory minimums would burden jails and taxpayers.

“State judges are imposing very long sentences when they’re appropriate,” Mills said. “It has a fiscal consequence the he (Diamond) tends to ignore.”

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