A Monroe City man pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon in Monroe County Circuit Court for two felony counts of possessing child pornography.
Jesse C. Lathrom, 32, who was arrested and charged in August, was sentenced to the maximum 15 years in prison on each count by Judge Rachel Bringer Shepherd during a half-hour hearing at the Monroe County Courthouse in Paris. She ordered that the sentences be served concurrently, and that he must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Lathrom had faced a five- to-15-year prison sentence, but Monroe County Prosecuting Attorney Talley Kendrick requested the maximum.
The only opportunity Lathrom will have for early release from prison is completing the Missouri Offender Program (MOSOP), which is administered by the Missouri Department of Corrections. Judge Shepherd told Lathrom that the Department of Correction is the only agency that can deem whether he successfully completes MOSOP.
"I'm pleased that the court followed my recommendation not only to sentence this defendant to the maximum sentence authorized by law, but also to deny him any opportunity for probation," Kendrick said. "That recommendation was based on my belief that he posed a danger to the community even though he had no prior criminal history."
Prior to sentencing, Lathrom said that he graduated high school in a special education program, and that he could not read.
"I can barely write my own name," he told the judge.
Lathrom said that he ordered the hard drive that contained the pornographic images of children on eBay, receiving it from an "overseas" source, saying that he discovered the images after the hard drive was delivered.
"I was trying to wipe the hard drive completely but could not figure how to do it," Lathrom said, adding that he ordered the hard drive on eBay in order "to save a few bucks over Walmart."
Judge Shepherd told Lathrom that his version of the crimes was not consistent with what investigators found.
"MOSOP requires that you be completely honest about what is going on in your life. Your explanation does not match the police report," she said.
According to a police report, Monroe City Police officers visited Lathrom’s apartment on June 5 as part of an investigation into a what they called a "window peeping" incident when they spotted possible child pornography on Lathrom’s laptop screen while they were "at the residence."
The officers said they then received written consent from Lathrom to search the residence. Police seized several items, which included the laptop, four hard drives and digital devices.
Monroe City Police said that they reached out for consultation from the Missouri State Technical Assistance Team Investigator, who in turn obtained search warrants for digital forensic examinations of the laptop, hard drives and digital devices.
The laptop, hard drives and digital devices were submitted to the Digital Forensics Unit of the State Technical Assistance Team for analysis. The STAT Digital Forensics Unit conducted a digital analysis of the data.
"The forensic examiner tagged 200 individual images of child pornography as a result of this examination," the police report said, with images of "female and male children younger than 10 years of age performing" performing sex acts.
Lathrom was arrested and charged on Aug. 20 after the forensics report was completed.
Kendrick said that despite evidence of multiple images, state law allowed for Lathrom to be charged with only the two felonies – one count related to still images found on his computer and one count related to video images.
‘In cases like these, the amount of forensic data that can be recovered varies from case to case. Missouri law doesn't allow the state to charge a separate crime for every image. There are exceptions where I can show that different images were downloaded on different dates. However, there simply wasn't enough information available in this case to allow additional charges," Kendrick said.