Former Marine found guilty of child porn solicitation

Timothy Ducharme

WOODSTOCK — A jury on Wednesday found a former Marine guilty of soliciting sexually explicit photos from a 15-year-old girl in April 2016 and recommended he be fined $2,500 subject to formal approval at a sentencing hearing scheduled for early next year.

The jury, which deliberated for an hour, also found Timothy Ducharme, 22, not guilty of having consensual sex with a minor over 15. Ducharme had also been charged with possession of child pornography, but that charge was dismissed mid-trial after Circuit Judge Dennis L. Hupp determined that the photos in question were not sexually explicit. For the solicitation charge, the jury recommended a $2,500 fine.

Ducharme and the 15-year-old girl met on the dating website Plenty of Fish, where the girl’s dating profile listed her as being 18. The defendant testified that weeks after the two began texting each other, Ducharme drove from Quantico to see the girl in Shenandoah County to surprise her weeks after the two began texting each other. Text messages downloaded from Ducharme’s phone after his arrest showed that the girl texted Ducharme and told him that he was too old for her. Ducharme agreed, and both ended their relationship.

The girl contacted  Ducharme the next day via text, asking to speak over the phone. Ducharme testified that during that conversation, the girl told him she lied about being 16 because she was nervous about meeting him, and that she was really 18. A friend of Ducharme’s who was with Ducharme during this conversation on speaker-phone, testified that the victim assured Ducharme that she was actually 18. The victim, however, testified that she never verbally told Ducharme that she was 18 at any point during their relationship, not even during that phone call.

The two resumed their relationship after that call, and the victim began sending nude photos of herself to Ducharme. Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Louis Campola argued that Ducharme’s text messages telling the victim to take a “sexy pic” amounted to Ducharme asking for nude photographs. But Charles Ramsey, Ducharme’s attorney, argued that those text messages could be up to interpretation, and that “sexy” did not necessarily mean nude.

The victim told Investigator Robert Poe with the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office that about a week after she began sending different nude photos of herself to Ducharme, he again came down from Quantico to Shenandoah County to visit the girl at her grandparents’ home. She originally said that the two engaged in vaginal and oral sex in Ducharme’s vehicle, but later said that it was only oral sex. She testified that she was confused about what the terms meant, which is why she changed her story. Poe testified that he felt the victim was being evasive, as she did not change her story until a third interview.

On cross-examination, the victim in the case answered many of Ramsey’s questions with “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember,” which led Ramsey to question her credibility in his closing argument. He noted she consistently lied about her age, and that her saying she was 16 wasn’t even the truth. Ramsey argued that the jury could not convict Ducharme because of the victim’s misrepresentation because his client maintains that he was misled.

Campola argued during closing arguments that the victim remembered the “important things,” and that Ducharme didn’t care that she was a minor because he continued the relationship anyway.

“It is fair and just to convict at this point because you have the evidence right here where she says, ‘I am 16,'” Campola said.

After finding Ducharme guilty of the solicitation charge, the jury was presented with additional evidence to determine sentencing. Ducharme’s father testified that his son never had trouble with the law before. Ducharme’s lifelong dream of being in the Marines was taken away from him after he was charged,  which led to a less than honorable discharge that was “devastating” to him, his father testified.

“My son, maybe he made a bad decision, but he’s a good boy,” Ducharme’s father said before asking the jury not to punish his son any further.

The jury was given sentencing options for the felony: one to five years imprisonment, up to 12 months in jail, a fine of no more than $2,500, or a combination of the fine and jail time. The jury took an hour to deliberate sentencing before they determined that they could not come to a unanimous decision. Hupp then read to the jury what is  known in legal circles as the Allen charge, which is a special jury instruction that is given to encourage jurors to be open to other jurors opinions but not to concede their position simply to have a unanimous verdict.

The jury returned 15 minutes later and recommended a $2,500 fine for the crime. The attorneys in this case agreed that the jury’s recommendation eliminated the need for a pre-sentence investigation or sex offender evaluation.

A sentencing hearing was set for Feb. 7.  Ducharme remains out on bond in New Mexico, where he resides with his family.

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