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Halifax resident enters Alford plea to child porn charges

Thomas Dale Anderson, a 41-year-old Halifax resident, entered an Alford plea Thursday in Halifax County Circuit Court to 223 counts for the distribution of child pornography, one a first offense and the remaining 222 for subsequent offenses.

Under terms of the Alford plea, Anderson did not admit guilt but realized the weight of prosecution evidence against him would more than likely result in a guilty verdict if the case went to trial.

Judge Joel Cunningham found evidence against Anderson sufficient to convict the defendant of the charges but withheld his finding of guilt until a presentence report could be prepared.

Sentencing for Anderson, in custody since his Oct. 29, 2010 arrest, was continued to a date in a later court term.

Cunningham made his ruling after hearing White proffer evidence in the case and after hearing arguments from the commonwealth’s attorney and defense attorney Charles H. Crowder III.

White told the court Anderson came under investigation in the fall of 2010 after Anderson’s former female friend reported to police text messages from the defendant to her went beyond erotic.

“They talked about sex, and as they continued to talk the female became troubled with the sex acts the defendant like to see and be engaged in,” said White. 

Anderson texted her that a young neighbor had performed oral sex on him before she turned 8-years-old, and by age 10 the pair had intercourse, White told the court.

“He stated he liked young girls,” White said of the defendant’s text message to his former friend, even suggesting a threesome between them and her then 13-year-old daughter. 

“All of this led the female to contact Virginia State Police and its high tech crime unit,” White told the court, with an undercover agent subsequently texting Anderson and setting up an October 2010 meeting.

A video and audio recording of that meeting, which took place in the agent’s vehicle, revealed the agent paid the defendant $500 for images of child pornography which were downloaded from a thumb drive Anderson gave the agent, White told the court.

Anderson believed the agent had children “for sale,” White continued, and he indicated he wanted to “play with them,” White continued.

The agent told Anderson he would pay $2,500 to watch children in sex acts and $3,500 to participate, to which Anderson replied he’d “have to get back with you on that,” according to White.

Crowder replied Anderson has proven not to be truthful during the course of the investigation.

An investigation by the Department of Social Services and interviews with family members revealed Anderson did not engage in oral sex with an 8-year-old, Crowder told the court.

The defense attorney described Anderson as a man with a wife and three kids and who was gainfully employed, a volunteer fireman and a “normal person.”

“Basically, he had been looking at child porn and downloaded the images when he found out he could make money,” Crowder said.

Only one thumb drive was confiscated, and nine years ago under Virginia law that would have constituted a misdemeanor before the law was amended, Crowder argued.