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Posted November 1, 2012 | comments 1 Comment

Child porn charge dropped

Judge refuses to certify it on question of possession

By Joe Beck

A child pornography case against a Strasburg man and former Mary Baldwin College professor has ended after a judge refused to certify it to a grand jury, his attorney said Thursday.

"We had a full preliminary hearing, the judge heard all the evidence, and it was dismissed," said John C. Holloran, a Harrisonburg lawyer who represented the defendant, Chadwick Carter Blackwell, 44, of 255 W. Queen St.

Holloran said Judge William H. Logan of Shenandoah County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court dismissed the case on Sept. 20 after ruling there was no proof that an allegedly pornographic photo belonged to Blackwell.

Holloran said the accusations against his client were based on a single picture of a boy's sexual body part, part of a series of 32 photos, most of which were innocuous images of furnishings in a cabin.

"They're obviously of the inside of a log cabin, a heater, a stool all kinds of family like pictures of things a kid would take a picture of," Holloran said. "Then there was one picture where it looks like a kid takes a picture of his male member, just a stupid kid picture. That's what they prosecuted."

Shenandoah County Commonwealth's Attorney Amanda Wiseley likened the case to some drug investigations that fail to gain a conviction.

"It's sort of like drugs in a car," Wiseley said. "Just because they're in the car, you can't prove it's possession."

Holloran said his client was released from the Middle River Regional Jail in Staunton immediately after the preliminary hearing. Blackwell had been held there for a probation violation stemming from the child pornography charge in Shenandoah County.

Blackwell was three weeks away from completing a three-year probation sentence for four counts of possessing child pornography at the time of his arrest on July 22 by Strasburg police.

The Staunton Circuit Court imposed the probation sentence in 2009 after Blackwell entered an Alford plea under which the defendant denies guilt but admits there is enough evidence to convict him. Blackwell had initially been charged with 34 counts in the Staunton case.

He was working as a psychology professor at Mary Baldwin at the time.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com

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