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Porn sends ex-park ranger to prison

Thomas Goins admitted having the images, but said he didn’t realize what he was doing was illegal.

Thomas Goins admitted having the images, but said he didn’t realize what he was doing was illegal.

TAMPA — A former Hillsborough County parks manager was sentenced Friday to 6 1/2 years in federal prison for possessing child pornography.

Thomas Goins, 65, had so many illegal images on his computer that FBI investigators said hard copies of them "would take up city blocks," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurel Moore.

"They had never recovered such massive amounts of images," Moore said in court.

Goins spent 25 years as a Hills­borough park ranger stationed at Lithia Springs Park, where he lived in a trailer with his adult daughter. A co-worker's tip about Goins' Internet habits led to his arrest in October and subsequent firing.

"I know I did wrong. I apologize for that," Goins said in court. "I didn't realize it was illegal."

Psychologist Ted Shaw, who specializes in treating sex offenders, testified that Goins passed a polygraph test when he answered "no" to a question about ever having sex with a minor. Shaw suggested that Goins likely would not continue viewing child pornography now that he's been punished for the crime.

U.S. District Judge Susan Bucklew sentenced Goins to the lowest end of a recommended guideline range, which is calculated by the type of crime and a defendant's criminal history. Goins had no prior criminal convictions.

"Mr. Goins, this is always troubling to me because you are not unusual with these types of cases," Bucklew said.

The judge noted that most defendants she sentences in child pornography cases lead stable, otherwise law-abiding lives. But the amount of images recovered from Goins' computer made it difficult to suggest anything but substantial jail time, she said.

Shortly after his arrest, Goins pleaded guilty to the crime. He never tried to hide what he had done or impede the FBI investigation, Bucklew said, and she commended him for it.

Kevin Graham can be reached at kgraham@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Porn sends ex-park ranger to prison 04/25/08 [Last modified: Friday, April 25, 2008 11:52pm]
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