Peterborough man remains free, pending appeal, after conviction on child pornography offenses
Judge Gillian Abramson, presiding in Hillsborough County Superior Court, Northern District, in sentencing Michael Donnelly, 28, on Thursday said a message must be sent to those who would abuse children and those who obtain images of that abuse.
In giving him the lengthy sentence, she further explained that "this industry is one of the darkest sides of society."
Abramson adopted the state's recommended sentence, but included a provision that allows Donnelly to petition to have three years of the minimum sentence suspended if he meaningfully participates in and completes the sex offender program at the prison.
And, over the objection of the prosecution, the judge also allowed Donnelly to remain out on bail pending the outcome of an appeal.
According to a news release issued by Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia M. LaFrance, Peterborough police opened an investigation after Donnelly's mother took the family computer to a friend because it was freezing up. The friend began removing viruses and malware and discovered numerous videos of child sexual abuse in a folder called "Mikey's Stuff." He immediately took the computer to police.
Police, in turn, had the New Hampshire Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force examine the computer. Concord police detective Mark Dumas, a computer forensics expert witness for ICAC, found dozens of files with names associated with child sexual exploitation that had been downloaded or partially downloaded multiple times between March and December 2009 using peer-to-peer software called FrostWire.
Dumas explained it was not possible for the videos to have been placed on the computer remotely, the videos had not been obtained through Internet browsers or email, and the videos could not have been the result of any viruses or malware. The defendant's mother, stepfather and sister testified Donnelly regularly used the computer and FrostWire. Although the defendant lived next door to the family in a duplex, he regularly used the computer and had access to the home when the others were at school or work. Donnelly admitted to police that he had downloaded "child porn once or twice" but claimed he had deleted the images.
A jury found Donnelly guilty on Nov. 7 of six counts of possession of child sexual abuse images after deliberating for about three hours.
Assistant Hillsborough County attorney Michael Valentine, in arguing for the lengthy sentence, said Donnelly sought out the illegal images more than once and, once the videos were downloaded, hid them on the computer.
Valentine described the repugnant content of the videos and showed the judge sanitized pictures of three of the children in the videos to emphasize the defendant's conduct hurt real children.
"The actions of the defendant and people like him seeking out and downloading these images creates a market for these images and directly contributes to the abuse of these children," he argued.
The defendant asked the court to sentence him to 2 to 6 years in prison, with an additional suspended sentence of 7 1/2 to 15 years. A number of people spoke on his behalf, describing Donnelly as a good person, a strong worker and a loving husband and father. The defendant's attorney asked the judge to recognize the difference between people who commit the acts of abuse and those who possess the images of abuse.
Donnelly will be required to register for life as a child sexual offender and have no contact with anyone under the age of 16. He is allowed supervised contact with his own child.