By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
An Adams County Circuit Court judge refused to agree with a plea negotiation in a child pornography case Wednesday and set the case on an upcoming jury docket.
Judge William Mays did not accept the deal that was agreed to in the case of Mark W. Sutton Jr. Sutton, 32, who used to live in Quincy but now resides Neponset, pleaded guilty to one count of child pornography in exchange for probation because he has no prior felony convictions.
At the start of Wednesday’s hearing, Mays let Sutton and the attorneys involved in the case know that he had problems moving forward with the sentencing.
“I have some severe reservations,” Mays said. “I’m not sure that Mr. Sutton is taking responsibility for what he has done. He even denies looking at any pictures.
“Before I agree to sentences in cases like this, I’d like to have Mr. Sutton have a sex offender evaluation. I don’t see where that has been done. I’m not comfortable going forward with this negotiation because of what I have read in the pre-sentence investigation.”
Mays reinstated Sutton’s right to a jury trial as well as his previous not guilty plea. Sutton’s case was placed on the December jury docket. The case will be reassigned by Chief Judge Richard Greenlief. If convicted, Sutton faces up to five years in prison.
Sutton was arrested May 15 when Quincy finished an investigation that began in fall 2009. First Assistant State’s Attorney Gary Farha said detectives served a search warrant on Sutton’s property in the 500 block of Spring on Oct. 13, 2009, and seized several computers. In a forensic sweep conducted on the computers, Farha said officers found several clean child pornography photos, including a photo of a 5-year-old child whose image was part of a national database.
Sutton’s lawyer, Public Defender Holly Henze, said she tried to work out a negotiation of an Alford plea for her client. By entering an Alford plea, Sutton could maintain his innocence but admit that sufficient evidence exists to prove him guilty.
Farha said the state’s attorney’s office would agree to an Alford plea but not to a sentence of probation. Farha had no objection to Mays refusing to the negotiation.
“In light of recent testimony in cases similar to this one, we believe there is no mistake in what happened here,” he said.
Sutton spent one night in the Adams County Jail before posting $2,000 bond. He since has been free and now lives in Neponset, a village of about 500 people in Bureau County in northwestern Illinois.