Special report: Most convicted of possessing child pornography in Washtenaw County receive probation sentences
The conviction rate for suspects accused in child pornography cases in Washtenaw County hovers close to 80 percent.
Twenty of the 40 cases charged since 1993 have resulted in guilty or no contest pleas, three were found guilty by juries, four involved plea deals to lesser charges, and five cases remain open, statistics provided by the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office show.
Chief Assistant Prosecutor Joseph Burke said once prosecutors have evidence of computer access and pictures on the computer, “these are hard cases to defend.”
Not a single jury trial for someone accused of having child porn has occurred in Washtenaw County since 2003.
In many cases, a guilty or no contest plea - which is not an admission of guilt, but is treated as such at sentencing - leads to probation.
Such an example is Daniel Rosentreter, who was running Chelsea’s water department in 2004 when police say child pornography was discovered on his work computer.
He faced 10 charges of possessing child abusive materials, each one carrying the possibility of up to 10 years in prison.
Two years after being arrested, Rosentreter pleaded no contest to five of the charges.
The other five were dropped.
He was sentenced to five years of probation.
Probation sentences aren’t part of the plea agreements, Burke said.
“The sentencing is done by the judge after a recommendation from the probation department,” Burke said. “The sentencing guidelines in these cases are relatively low, and I am almost certain that all of the probationary sentences were within the guideline range for that offense.”
According to Burke, child pornography possession is a class “F” felony, and prison or jail time is extremely rare. Distribution is a class “D” felony, but unless someone has a past felony criminal history or there are other aggravating circumstances, the likelihood of incarceration is still low, he said.
“To answer your question, it is frustrating that the guidelines for these offenses are so low,” Burke said.
“On the other hand, before March of 2003, possession of (child porn) in this state of misdemeanor. Raising this crime to the severity of felony was an acknowledgement by our legislature that those who ‘merely’ possess (child porn) are criminals worthy of felony designation.”
â€¢ "Not enough" investigators in Washtenaw County working on child pornography cases
â€¢ Computers play key role in prosecuting child pornography cases
â€¢ Eastern Michigan University professor: Child porn voyeurs looking for someone to dominate