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July 15, 2014

Man to serve 25-50 years for child porn

EBENSBURG — A man who pleaded guilty in April to more than 30 charges of viewing or disseminating child pornography will spend 25 to 50 years behind bars.

Joseph Miller, 49, of the 200 block of Maple Street in Marsteller, was sentenced before Cambria County Judge Patrick Kiniry on Tuesday. Because this was Miller’s second conviction on child porn charges – the prior charge was in Indiana County – his mandatory minimum sentence was 25 years.

Corrine Scheuneman, a member of the Pennsylvania Sexual Offenders Assessment Board, delivered expert testimony that led the court to categorize Miller as a sexually violent predator. The court was awaiting Scheuneman’s assessment of Miller before continuing to his sentencing hearing.

It was the second such report performed on Miller.

Scheuneman said she did not find Miller to be potentially violent in her first assessment report, roughly two years ago.

According to Scheuneman’s testimony on Tuesday, Miller had been enrolled in a treatment and supervision program for sexual offenders for about six months before his most recent charges, which were filed in August. She said that although Miller understood the risks – as well as the gravity of his actions – he took steps to conceal his pornography habits from probation officers, including spreading the illegal material across multiple devices – a laptop computer, tablet and mobile phone.

“That is a ‘hurdle’ of sorts,” Scheuneman told Kiniry – a factor that indicated the lengths Miller was willing to go to obtain or view the material, affirming her assessment of Miller as a sexually violent predator.

Subjects who are unable to refrain while undergoing treatment exhibit greater risk of re-engaging in the behavior, she said.

She referenced Miller’s interest in certain age groups of children, as well as Internet search engine history data that corroborated police findings.

Agents working on the sting operation that brought charges against Miller determined that he had downloaded sexually explicit material involving toddlers and children between the ages of 5 and 8, according to court documents.

Miller maintained a despondent expression throughout the proceedings, until Kiniry ruled he would be deemed sexually violent predator, when he shook his head somberly.

“I’m not a bad person,” Miller said in a closing statement, his words becoming more choked.

Public defender Maribeth Schaffer expressed to Kiniry that Miller’s case was “actually difficult.”

Although Miller was on trial for serious sexual crimes, she said he did not carry an air of criminality and treated court employees, including her, with respect throughout the ordeal.

“Mr. Miller has treated me like a lady,” she told Kiniry. “It makes a case like this especially hard. ... He’s taking the consequences of his actions very seriously.”

The minimum punishment for a third-time offender is life in prison.

“I’m sure you’re aware of the consequences,” Kiniry told Miller before he was escorted away. “This is the second time.”

Justin Dennis is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @JustinDennis.

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