This past Friday, a Juneau man was sentenced to nearly 22 years in prison for accessing hundreds of photos of child pornography.
Jim Wayne Thornhill, 40, was sentenced to 262 months (21 years and 10 months) by Chief U.S. District Court Judge Timothy M. Burgess, and Thornhill will be under supervision for the rest of his life after completing his prison sentence. In September 2017, a jury found Thornhill guilty of receipt of child pornography.
An investigation from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) revealed that between Nov. 3, 2014 and Dec. 25, 2014, Thornhill had downloaded 581 images depicting child pornography onto his cellphone. Thornhill was a convicted sex offender, as he was found guilty of second-degree sexual abuse of a minor in 2007. In that case, he was found guilty of repeatedly sexually abusing a child from the age of 6 to 11.
The crime carries a sentence of between 15 and 40 years in prison. Based on Thornhill’s history, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Schmidt asked for the maximum sentence. Burgess didn’t want to go quite that far.
“I’m not anywhere near the government’s recommendation,” Burgess said during the sentencing hearing. “I don’t think it’s appropriate in this case, but I will tell you, that doesn’t mean I’m not seriously concerned about what he’s going to do when he’s out and nobody’s watching.”
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) sent a report of harm to the Juneau Police Department, which then referred the report to the FBI. The investigation was part of Project Safe Childhood, an initiative that the Department of Justice launched in 2006 to fight against child exploitation and abuse.
When the FBI first spoke with Thornhill, he denied having a cellphone. The FBI then learned that Thornhill’s employer found a cellphone and handwritten lists with search terms and internet addresses that were associated with child pornography. Thornhill eventually admitted that he owned the phone, saying that he was looking for images that were “just naked kids.”
Based on this, the FBI got a warrant and found the hundreds of pornographic images. Many of the images were of pre-pubescent children engaged in sexual conduct, including images that showed an adult male sexually assaulting a toddler.
Both Thornhill and his attorney Jamie McGrady stated that Thornhill is remorseful for his actions and wants to change. They pointed out that Thornhill was abused as a child and has had sexual issues since then.
“I have a problem,” Thornhill said. “I’m willing to admit that. I have been working on that problem for a very long time and I’ve struggled at it. …I don’t feel that I’m worth giving up on. I want treatment.”
Schmidt pointed out that Thornhill has failed out of multiple treatment programs before, and Thornhill admitted that as well. Schmidt asserted that based on Thornhill’s track record, having him on the street would put children in danger.
“It’s only a matter of time,” Schmidt said. “It’s not if, it’s when, before he reoffends.”
Father-son meth distributors taking different paths forward
Charles Edward Cotten Jr., accused of dealing methamphetamine in Juneau in 2017, will have to wait a little bit longer for his trial.
Cotten, 52, was originally scheduled to go to trial in federal court during the first week of March. During a hearing Friday morning, Chief District Judge Timothy Burgess granted a request from Cotten’s attorney to push the trial back to April 9.
Cotten’s lawyer Michael Moberly, based in Anchorage, was on the phone during Friday’s hearing. Moberly said he needed additional time to prepare before the trial.
“I’ve been having difficulty spending as much time with Mr. Cotten as I should because of my distance from Juneau,” Moberly said.
Burgess scheduled the trial to begin at 9 a.m. April 9. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Schmidt, who’s prosecuting the case, said he expected the trial to last no longer than three days.
According to an indictment filed by a grand jury in October 2017, Cotten distributed meth on four occasions between May 12 and June 7 of this year. His 1995 black Harley Davidson motorcycle and his boat, the M/V Northwind, were also seized.
Along with Cotten, his 36-year-old son Ricky Stapler Lisk is also accused of distributing methamphetamine. Lisk, unlike Cotten, pleaded guilty to the charge this past Friday.
Lisk’s trial was also set to begin March 5, but he will instead plead guilty and be sentenced in September. While Cotten is accused of distributing meth on four occasions between May 12 and June 7 of this 2017, Lisk was accused of distributing along with Cotten one time, on June 2.
At Lisk’s court hearing Friday, Schmidt read off the alleged details of that transaction. Cotten and Lisk sold just shy of 28 grams of meth to an informant for law enforcement. Cotten took $100 at the time, and Lisk took $1,500, according to Schmidt’s account. Lisk then spent some of that money and returned the rest to Cotten. During his court hearing Friday, Lisk admitted that the details of that transaction were true.
Lisk faces a possible sentence of between five and 40 years, a fine of up to $5 million and supervised release of at least four years after his release from prison.
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.