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THURSDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2006
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Ex-principal gets child porn sentence in Mobile

MOBILE (AP) — A former principal at Baldwin County elementary schools was sentenced to nearly 12 years in federal prison on child pornography charges that accused him in part of e-mailing personal information about his nieces to pedophiles.

U.S. District Judge Kristi DuBose, who imposed the 11-year, 8-month sentence Tuesday on Steve Dennis Thomas, said the e-mails contradicted his claim that his activities were nothing more than fantasies.

"It stopped being fantasy and became reality," DuBose said. "I don't know if you can be rehabilitated or not."

The 57-year-old Bay Minette man, who began teaching in 1977 at Perdido Elementary and was principal of Stapleton Elementary and Bay Minette Elementary, was accused of possessing and receiving child pornography.

He exchanged instant messages that contained images of children having sex and
comments about wanting to snatch, rape, torture and kill young girls, according to
testimony.

Thomas, who pleaded guilty in September, had asked for lenience and insisted his actions were fantasies.

"I did make a mistake, but I'm not a monster," he said.

But FBI Special Agent Paul Roche testified at the sentencing Tuesday that Thomas e-mailed images of his nieces to pedophiles that included the girls' names, addresses, birth dates, bra and panty sizes and phone numbers.

"This criminal does not fantasize, your honor. He makes plans," the father of the girls told the judge.

The father said his daughters have suffered emotional trauma and that the 14-year-old's hair started falling out, which doctors attributed to stress.

"He treated her and traded her like a baseball card," he said.

Defense attorney Neil Hanley told the court that Thomas never took any overt action to personally harm a child and that the number of pornographic pictures uncovered by investigators was small.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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