Shenandoah County’s chief prosecutor criticized a judge who gave a man no jail time for possessing child pornography.

Caleb Andrew McKee appeared in Shenandoah County Circuit Court on Wednesday for a sentencing hearing. McKee, 30, of Strasburg, faced serving up to 12 years and five months of active prison time for committing 12 counts of possession of child pornography. A plea agreement capped the active time McKee would serve at 12 years.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda Strecky urged Judge Kevin C. Black to sentence McKee to serve the maximum 12 years allowed in the agreement. Without the agreement, the state allowed the court to sentence McKee to a maximum of 115 years in prison — five years for one count of possession of child pornography and 10 years for the other 11 counts.

Instead, Black sentenced McKee to one year in prison on each of the 12 felonies and suspended the terms in their entirety. Black ordered McKee to complete five years of supervision. McKee could face serving some or all of the suspended time — 12 years — if a judge finds that he violated the terms of his supervised probation.

At the sentencing hearing, Strecky asked the judge to impose the maximum punishment allowed under the plea agreement reached earlier this summer between Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Austin Hovermale and the defendant’s legal counsel William B. Allen III.

Shenandoah County Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda Wiseley reacted and responded by email Thursday to the judge’s decision to impose an entirely suspended sentence.

“I am professionally disappointed and personally disgusted by the sentence handed down by the Court,” Wiseley states in her email. “The sentencing guidelines called for no less than 4 years 4 months of active incarceration, and, in my opinion, there is no reason or excuse for any Court to deviate below that amount.

“The videos and photographs possessed by Caleb McKee are a permanent record of the sexual abuse endured by its young victims, victims that, because of Caleb McKee and others like him, will be haunted by such abuse for the rest of their lives as those images continue to circulate over the Internet,” Wiseley goes on to state. “Therefore, I am extremely disappointed that a Shenandoah County Circuit Court Judge would barely slap the wrists of a man who would possess, much less sexually enjoy, pictures of children being sexually abused the way Caleb McKee did.”

Strecky noted in her argument for the sentence the seriousness of the offenses, the nature and type of the child pornography McKee was viewing and the amount of time he spent viewing the material. McKee’s most recent evaluation indicated he fell within the middle range for likelihood to re-offend.

The guidelines as recommended by the Virginia Sentencing Commission suggest that McKee spend an active period of incarceration from four years and four months at a low end to 12 years and five months in prison. Virginia law requires that judges consider the sentencing guidelines. However, judges are not bound by the guidelines when they impose punishment.

Black explained in a written statement his reasons for setting punishment below the guidelines. Black states that the defendant began his pattern of viewing child pornography at age 13 but has no prior criminal record. Wiseley cited in her email portions of Black’s statement.

“He has always been a productive member of society and he has a supportive social structure,” Wiseley’s email states. “All expert testimony points to no value to active incarceration and suggests that it could be detrimental given (the) defendant’s progress.”

Wiseley went on to commend Strasburg Police Department investigator J. Magdinec for his work on the case.

“While I know Investigator Magdinec is also disappointed in the sentence handed down by the Court, I know that he will continue to work to protect the citizens of his community and to bring to justice those who would exploit and abuse, or promote such exploitation or abuse of, the youngest and most vulnerable victims in our society,” Wiseley states.

A conviction of a first count of possession of child pornography, a Class 6 felony, calls for a sentence of one to five years in a state penitentiary or up to 12 months in jail. A second or subsequent count of the same crime, a Class 5 felony, calls for a sentence of one to 10 years in prison. McKee could have received a sentence of up to 115 years in prison. The judge accepted a plea agreement earlier this summer that limited whatever time McKee would serve to 12 years and 5 months.

A grand jury handed up indictments against McKee on Feb. 14, 2018, charging him with the first count of possessing child pornography and 106 counts of the same crime as a subsequent offense. The indictments accuse McKee of committing the offenses on Sept. 27, 2017, the day of his arrest and subsequent release on bond from Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren Regional Jail.

An agreement reached June 19 between then Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Austin Hovermale and McKee’s legal counsel William B. Allen III called for the defendant to plead guilty to the first count of possession of child pornography and to 11 of the 106 counts of the same crime as a subsequent offense. The agreement also left it up to a judge to set McKee’s punishment but limited the time the defendant would serve to a maximum of 12 years and five months.

The sentencing guidelines prepared for the court indicated that McKee should serve an active prison sentence of between four years and four months to 12 years and five months. A judge must consider, but does not have to, impose punishment in which active time falls within the guidelines.

The Northern Virginia-Washington, D.C. Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force received a tip that an image depicting child pornography had been downloaded to a computer, Hovermale told the court, citing information he planned to present had the case gone to trial. The task force obtained and traced the computer’s internet protocol address to a Strasburg residence. Officers searched the residence and retrieved electronic devices on which investigators found images depicting child pornography, Hovermale said. The indictments did not reflect the exact number of images discovered by investigators, he noted. None of the images led prosecutors to seek charges of distributing or producing child pornography, Hovermale added.

McKee complied with the investigation and made statements against his own interest, Allen told the court.

– Contact Alex Bridges at abridges@nvdaily.com