A judge on Friday sentenced a former mental health manager in the Benton County Health Department to two-and-a-half years in prison for downloading child pornography.
Kent Shropshire Hill should also pay a $5,500 fine, Benton County Circuit Court Judge David Connell ordered. Hill will be placed on three years of post-prison supervision and is required to register as a sex offender for life, the judge ruled.
“This is not a victimless crime at all,” Connell said before handing down the sentence. “The activities you took part in harm children.”
Hill, who is 55 years old, pleaded no contest to 11 counts of encouraging child sexual abuse in the first-degree. The charges are a Class B felony, each carrying a maximum penalty of 10 years behind bars.
Linn County Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Crow, acting as special prosecutor in the case, asked for Hill to be sentenced to four years in prison. He said the fact that Hill was serving in a position of public trust and professional responsibility was an aggravating factor in the case.
Hill’s defense attorney, Stephen Ensor, requested probation for his client. He said Hill has an addiction and requires treatment that he cannot get in prison.
Ensor said Hill was a therapist for more than 30 years and previously worked as a behavioral health counselor in Kansas.
Linn County sheriff detectives arrested Hill on March 10 after serving a search warrant in the 900 block of Southeast Centerpointe Drive.
The Benton County Sheriff's Office had initiated the investigation, but when Hill was discovered to be a Benton County Mental Health division manager, Linn County was asked to take over the investigation. This practice is common in law enforcement in order to avoid perception of bias or conflict of interest in cases.
Crow said law enforcement served the search warrant after a Benton County detective identified Hill’s IP address while conducting an investigation of computers in Oregon that were searching for or downloading child pornography.
During the search, law enforcement officers seized two computers and five USB flash drives belonging to Hill, Linn County Sheriff's Office Detective John Trenary testified at the sentencing. On the devices were several hundred images of child pornography, Trenary said.
Trenary said Hill was using Shareaza, a peer-to-peer file sharing software, to search for and download the images, some of which he duplicated onto flash drives. The detective said Hill downloaded and deleted the software from his computer multiple times.
The detective sent the images to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which identified one known victim in some of the images.
Ensor said Hill has been in sex offender treatment since August. Hill has also been participating in Sex Addicts Anonymous and has connected with Oregon Voices, an organization that advocates for rational sex offender policies, Ensor said.
“I think he embraces the need to change,” said Peter Shannon, a certified sex offender therapist who has been serving as Hill’s counselor.
The therapist said there is no sex offender treatment program in Oregon’s prisons. By sentencing Hill to probation, Ensor argued his client would receive more effective treatment.
Hill addressed Connell before the judge announced his sentence.
“I am deeply ashamed of my actions,” the defendant said.
Hill admitted that he intended to download the illegal images and view them.
“I have now been forced into admitting I have an addiction to pornography,” he said.
Crow said he feels that court proceedings sometimes sanitize the issue of child pornography.
“What it is, is the sexual abuse of a child that is memorialized,” he said.
The judge said he considered the 11 letters submitted by friends, family members and former colleagues in support of Hill.
But, Connell said, he also read the descriptions of the images in the probable cause affidavit. One of those images, he said, depicted the rape of a young girl by two men, and it became clear to him why the state has strict laws against child pornography.
“We have these laws to protect children,” the judge said.