U-M child porn case: Judge refuses to accept Stephen Jenson's plea agreement
But United States District Court Judge Avern Cohn refused to accept a plea agreement that would not have allowed Jenson to appeal his sentence.
Jenson, 37, was read his rights and told Cohn he wanted to plead to the second count of possession of child pornography in exchange for a charge of receipt of child pornography being dropped. When Cohn asked him what made him believe he was guilty, Jenson admitted to having the images and videos on his computer.
“On my computer, I had images of children of an illegal nature,” Jenson said.
“Pornographic?” Cohn asked.
“Yes,” Jenson replied, adding later that the images showed children in various illicit sexual acts and poses.
Despite that admission, Cohn refused to accept the guilty plea. Cohn appeared frustrated with United States Attorney Matthew Roth’s agreement, which specified that Jenson would not be able to appeal Cohn's sentence. The plea agreement called for Jenson to serve between six years and seven-and-a-quarter years in prison, with an absolute minimum of three years in prison.
However, Cohn did not want his to be the final judgment.
“I don’t want non-reviewable authority,” he said. “I could make a mistake. I could be wrong. I could be wrong.”
Cohn took the plea agreement under advisement and told the parties to continue working on the deal. No court date was set during the hearing on Thursday.
Jenson was fired from U-M Hospital in December after he was arraigned on state charges of possession child sexually abusive material. In May 2011, a hospital employee discovered the alleged pornographic images on a thumb drive. That employee notified U-M Hospital Security, but no one reported the incident to the University of Michigan Department of Public Safety until November, a gap of six months.
Records show at least eight people knew about the alleged child porn by June 2011.
State child porn charges brought by Washtenaw County prosecutors were dropped in February in favor of the federal charges.
After the reporting gap was discovered, several investigations were launched. A university internal review resulted in a report released in February. The university’s Board of Regents also ordered an external review, and the U.S. Department of Education did its own review into the reporting gap.
Outside the courtroom on Thursday, Jenson declined to comment on the case. He spent most of the hearing standing stoically in front of Cohn, between his attorney Raymond Cassar and Roth. Wearing a suit and holding his hands in front of his waist, Jenson gave short answers to Cohn’s questions, occasionally asking for clarification on his rights.
Cassar said he and Roth would continue their discussions.
“We’re trying to resolve this case and he’s (Jenson) trying to put this matter behind him,” Cassar said.