Waco, TexasKWTX)- A Waco man who had a secret room in his home where authorities found a stash of child pornography was sentenced Friday to 12 years in prison.
Stevenson Randolph Carl, 53, a technician at the Waco Storage Company, pleaded guilty to five counts of possession of child pornography and asked 19th State District Judge Thomas West to grant his request for an extension of probation.
Following Friday’s sentencing, in which the chairman of the Texas Council on the Treatment of Sex Offenders revealed that Carl had a low risk of reoffending, West denied Car’s requests for probation and sentenced him to four concurrent 10-year prison terms on counts 1- 4 and to two years’ imprisonment under paragraph 5.
The judge also ordered that count 5 be served consecutively with count 4, for a total of 12 years’ imprisonment. Carl, who must register as a sex offender for the rest of his life, must serve at least a quarter of his sentence before he can seek parole.
Carl, who revealed he has been married for 35 years, was arrested in April 2019 after investigators from the Texas Attorney General’s Office of Child Exploitation tracked down the IP address of a computer owned by Carl.
During a search of his home, investigators found several images and videos of child pornography on Carl’s computer, which were found in what prosecutor Tara Avants described as a “secret brick-fronted room” with furniture placed in front of it.
Carl explained that the room, despite being behind a panel, was his man cave, which everyone in his family knew about because they had to go through this room to get to the garage.
“It wasn’t hidden. Everyone knew he was there. It’s like a secret room at Poppa Rollo’s,” Carl said, referring to the popular Waco pizzeria.
He said that when he built the room, he did not have access to child pornography. However, he admitted to having suffered from depression since his teenage years, when his mother became ill and turned to pornography as a coping mechanism for depression, grief, and anger.
He said that in 2018, his search for regular porn as a way to avoid emotional deadlock led him to a “bulletin board” website that hosted images and videos of child pornography.
“I fell down a rabbit hole I shouldn’t have gone down,” Carl testified.
Carl, questioned by his lawyer Stan Schwieger, said that he did not look for excuses for accessing child pornography because there was no excuse for it. He said he just wanted the judge to know why it happened in his case.
According to him, his arrest was a wake-up call for him. He, his wife and children grew closer, and his troubles led him to Calvary Chapel Church, where he helps with the sound system and goes on mission trips to Uvalda and Florida to help others devastated by the crisis, Carl said.
“When I was arrested, I prayed to God to stop me because I couldn’t do it myself,” he said, adding that he no longer had the desire to watch child pornography. “I can’t say enough about how sorry I am that I was involved in something that harmed these kids.”
Schwieger asked the judge to note the number of letters sent to the court as characterizations of Carl and a group of family and church members in court on Friday to support him.
Advance asked Carl during cross-examination if he ever thought about exploited children when he uploaded videos of children as young as 6 engaging in sexual acts.
You were talking about your family. Who is helping these children? Advance asked.
Carl searched for an answer before saying, “I’m guessing this is the job of the criminal justice system.”
In another testimony, Aaron Pierce, a psychologist who has treated over 4,000 sex offenders, said that while Carl shows signs of paedophilic disorder, his testing and evaluation shows he has a low risk of reoffending and a low risk of violence.
Schwieger said Carl will appeal his verdict, declining to comment further.
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