Man gets 25 years in Tampa child porn case

TAMPA — The defendant was a stuttering, bald, overweight loner who spent hours in his room, watching videos of children being sexually tortured while he drank one can of Dr. Pepper after another. His lawyer said he'd never actually harmed a child and lived under self-imposed house arrest.

The judge said he feared the defendant would one day break out of that fantasy world. "I am so fearful," the judge said Wednesday. "You take the innocence of a child, and it's lost forever."

Clifton Mothershed, a 43-year-old computer tech, had pleaded guilty to 100 counts of possession of child pornography. He was arrested in 2009 by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and Florida attorney general's predator cyber task force. Some of the videos he'd obtained over the Internet showed toddlers screaming as they were tied up and raped.

At a sentencing hearing Wednesday before Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe, his lawyer said Mothershed had been molested at age 11 by a charity volunteer and later by a relative. But attorney Daniel Hernandez said Mothershed had never molested a child. "He had no social life, sexual or otherwise, outside his room."

Forensic psychologist Richard Carpenter testified that Mothershed exhibited no mental illness or criminality and "could learn his lesson."

But Assistant State Attorney Rita Peters informed Carpenter that Mothershed had sought out children while free on bond after his arrest. She said Mothershed had talked to a detective posing as a child on an Internet chat line, urging her to commit a sexual act.

The psychologist then said he would have to reconsider his opinion that Mothershed was unlikely to reoffend.

Mothershed spoke directly to the judge. "I know it's bad," he said haltingly. "I would like to get help."

Tharpe told him he's the kind of defendant who scares him to death. "There's no doubt you've been dealt a bad hand in life," the judge said. "But you're someone who's not just watching, but observing video with the sounds of little children crying. It's incomprehensible to me that a person can receive personal gratification from that."

The judge said he feared that Mothershed would one day find someone on the Internet who would bring him a child.

"At that point, that child is lost."

Tharpe sentenced Mothershed to 25 years in prison, followed by 15 years of probation.

Man gets 25 years in Tampa child porn case 09/14/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 15, 2011 12:47am]

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