Wednesday, October 06, 1999

Thomas Reid said he was ashamed

"Internet addict' jailed for e-mailing child porn

He sent pornographic images of children to an undercover police officer he thought was the mother of a 12-year-old girl.


   A self-described "Internet addict" was sent to jail Tuesday for using his computer in an attempt to arrange sex with a 12-year-old girl.

    Thomas Lee Reid, 50, received an 18-month sentence from Roanoke Circuit Judge Jonathan Apgar for transmitting pornographic images of children to an undercover police officer he believed was the 12-year-old's mother.

    Prosecutors say Reid ultimately intended to have sex with the girl, but they agreed not to charge him with solicitation in exchange for his guilty pleas to three counts of distributing child pornography.

    Reid was arrested after he drove from his Rockingham County home to Roanoke for what he thought was going to be a meeting with the mother and daughter, stopping to buy the wine coolers he was asked to bring along during their conversations in an online chat room.

    "The Internet is a scary place," Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Ann Gardner said. "People cloaked with anonymity go online to act out their fantasies and find fuel for their perversions."

    Reid is the second person to be convicted in Roanoke of an Internet sex crime, a type of criminal activity authorities say is growing faster than they can investigate it.

    Gardner had asked for a six-year prison sentence in what Apgar called a "case of contradictions." While there was no question Reid sent graphic photographs and comments during an online conversation with undercover officers posing as the child's mother, he also had no prior record and was not considered a child molester by the counselor who examined him.

    "I do not feel that society is any safer or better with Mr. Reid incarcerated," defense attorney Greg Phillips said. Phillips said Reid has lost his $50,000-a-year contracting job and now drives trucks for a fraction of his previous salary. He said Reid has been punished enough by the humiliation associated with the charges.

    Reid told Apgar he was ashamed of himself.

    "The truth is, I became addicted to the Internet and started to live in a sick fantasy world," he said.

    Gardner, who said it's common for people to blame their crimes on an addiction, called Reid's statement the "most far-fetched example of that I've heard."

    For Reid, she said, the Internet was "simply a convenient vehicle to further his fantasy."

Last updated 99/10/06
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