A Cortland County man was sentenced 2 ⅓ to 7 years in state prison following his conviction of promoting a sexual performance by a child less than 17 years of age in county court Thursday morning.
According to the pre-sentencing report, when New York State Police seized “several electronics” from Hines’ home, the electronics contained over 14,000 images and over 2,000 videos of child pornography.
County judge Julie Campbell, who had talking points from the pre-sentencing report, noted the photos and images stemmed from hidden cameras in his own home and the internet. The cameras focused on a victim in his home, according to the report, which were hidden in the bathroom and the victim’s bedroom.
Campbell noted Hines knew he “had the potential to get caught,” but he continued to do so “out of curiosity.”
“He knew right from wrong, but he just hadn’t been caught yet,” Campbell said.
According to the report, Hines’ interest in child pornography began when he found flash drives at a rest stop in the Town of Preble. When Hines put the flash drives into a computer, he was “shocked and horrified” at what he was seeing.
The report added that Hines’ curiosity “got the best of him” and he proceeded “to fall down the rabbit hole.”
Campbell found Hines’ explanation to his interest in child porngraphy “unsatisfactory.”
“14,000 images is a bit more than falling down the rabbit hole,” Campbell said to Hines.
Assistant District Attorney Jessica Weyant said Hines “takes no responsibility for his actions.”
“He says fell down a rabbit hole after he found flash drives at a rest stop in Preble. That doesn’t account for the numerous items that were taken from his home,” Weyant said, noting child pornography and child exploitiative materials and items were found on computers, flash drives, external hard drives and photo cards.
According to Weyant, Hines had the images and videos for six years “before he was caught.”
“There are 14,000 victims in this case from this defendant,” Weyant added. “This isn’t falling down the rabbit hole and finding flash drives at a rest stop. This is looking at something and being excited about it.”
Kevin Jones, Hines’ defense attorney, said there’s another side to Hines.
“Hines has never been charged, much less convicted of any crime. He has worked and contributed to society, and done so behind most,” Jones said, who listed off Hines’ volunteer work in the community, accomplishments and accolades in the past. Jones was referencing Hines’ involvement locally as a volunteer fireman.
Jones recommended 10 years of probation for Hines instead of his impending sentencing.
“Mr. Hines is remorseful and deeply regrets what he has done,” Jones said, noting his time on probation could come with or without incarceration.
Weyant, however, believed that the proposed maximum amount of incarceration is “appropriate, but not enough.”
“He broke everybody’s trust, including the victim,” Weyant said. She added that the victim said Hines “deserves to be punished.”
“I trusted him,” according to a statement written by the victim that was read by Weyant.
Based on the pre-sentencing report, an undisclosed individual noted that Hines “deserves to have his freedom taken away,” which is “something he’s continued to enjoy while the rest of us are left picking up the pieces.”
“He has focused on himself this whole time, saying ‘I lost my job, my family, my home,’” Weyant said. “What has everyone else lost that continues to be victimized in this instance? All of these victims are child abuse victims that continue to be victimized every time someone shares those videos or looks at them.”
Hines prepared a statement prior to his sentencing.
“I want to take this time to apologize to my family, my former family. I am so sorry for what I put them through,” he said. “I cannot even imagine what they are dealing with. I deeply regret it and do so the rest of my life. I’ve received counseling to understand why and get better.”
At the end of the court session, Hines made a decision to appeal his sentencing. Despite this, District Attorney Patrick Perfetti said Hines’ sentencing has “occurred and the law requires it to be carried out.”
“He was taken out in custody today,” Perfetti said.
Perfetti noted that Hines waived his right to appeal when he took the plea, however, Perfetti added there are “certain appellate rights that can never be waived.”
“He still has the ability to enter an appeal,” Perfetti said. “Although in cases where the defendant is convicted on a plea, they are very seldom successful (in the appeal).”
Details on if and when a decision will be made on the appeal remain to be seen.