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Sentencing continued in child pornography case

Halifax County Circuit Court Judge Joel Cunningham has ordered a second sentencing date for Thomas Dale Anderson, whom Cunningham found guilty of 223 counts related to the possession and distribution of child pornography on Tuesday.

Anderson, a 41-year-old Halifax resident, entered an Alford plea to the charges in May, with Cunningham finding evidence sufficient for a conviction but continuing the case in order for defense attorney Charles Crowder III to study case law in support of his argument to amend second or subsequent charges to those for a first offense.

The 223 charges carry a mandatory minimum of five years each in prison, according to state code, but Cunningham said Tuesday he could not in good conscious sentence the defendant to 1,115 years in prison.

“The defendant committed a very heinous criminal act, disgusting, reprehensible,” said Cunningham. “The court should not be put in a position to sentence the defendant to 1,115 years.”

The defendant himself, along with several members of his family testified Tuesday, with an emotional Anderson agreeing with Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Freshour he did possess child pornography but only downloaded the images on a thumb drive and sold them to make money he needed to support his family.

“I’ve never touched a child or anyone under 18 in a sexual manner,” Anderson told the court.

Members of the defendant’s family, including his son, sister, ex-wife and mother all described Anderson as a solid family man who was devoted to his children, was constantly employed and served as a volunteer fireman.

All said they were never aware of the defendant either viewing child pornography or downloading it.  

Prior to his arrest on the child pornography charges, Anderson had only a pair of minor traffic infractions on his record, Crowder told the court.

In asking for the court to sentence Anderson concurrently for all or some of the charges, Crowder argued this particular kind of case was prosecuted differently in Halifax County than in other area of the state.

“These were misdemeanors 10 years ago,” Crowder said while arguing against the number of charges brought against his client.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Freshour argued the court found evidence sufficient for all 223 counts.

Freshour argued case law that allows the court to sentence the defendant consecutively, as opposed to concurrently.

“The mandatory minimum is what the legislature wants,” Freshour told Cunningham. “The court is bound by that.”

In ruling for a second sentencing hearing, Cunningham said, “We want to make sure we’re right.”

Anderson was indicted Jan. 10, 2011 by a Halifax County Circuit Court Grand Jury on a total of 227 counts relating to possession, reproduction and possession with intent to distribute child pornography.

The commonwealth later nol prossed four counts of distribution of child pornography, while another was amended from a subsequent offense to a first offense of distribution of child pornography.