Teenager pleads guilty to possession of child porn, becomes sex offender

TAMPA — Patrick Melton, 17, became a sex offender Thursday after pleading guilty to 50 counts of possession of child pornography.

Hillsborough County sheriff's detectives first learned of Melton's Internet activity in December 2008. Using a search warrant for his home that following March, they found the images, including one of a man molesting a 2-year-old.

When they tracked Melton down at Tampa Bay Tech, deputies said he admitted downloading them.

He told a detective he was 9 years old when an Internet search typo introduced him to child pornography.

He meant to type "hot rods," he said. Instead, he typed "hot bods."

Prosecutor Rita Peters said Melton admitted to authorities that if he had not gotten caught, he might have gone on to touch a child.

Taking into account his age, candor with detectives, stable home environment and the fact that many of the images he viewed were of children within his age bracket, prosecutors offered him a deal: six years of probation with sex offender treatment.

Melton took it.

His attorney told Hillsborough Circuit Judge Chet Tharpe the teenager's plans include getting his high school diploma and going to church with his parents.

Tharpe called Melton "son" when he addressed him.

"Do you realize what a tremendous benefit you are being offered?" Tharpe asked.

"Yes, sir," Melton responded.

"In order for one of these pictures to be made, each and every time, a child has to be victimized," Tharpe told him. "Their innocence is stolen, and that will never, ever be returned to that child."

Tharpe told Melton his freedom is at stake if he violates probation.

"If you don't take advantage of this opportunity, you could spend the rest of your life in Florida State Prison," Tharpe told him. "You understand?"

Melton responded, "Yes, sir."

Alexandra Zayas can be reached at azayas@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3354.

Teenager pleads guilty to possession of child porn, becomes sex offender 04/08/10 [Last modified: Friday, April 9, 2010 12:46am]

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