Attorney General Alan Wilson announces three men plead guilty to child pornography charges

(COLUMBIA, S.C.) – Jan. 11, 2019 – South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson announces that three men in the Upstate have pleaded guilty to child pornography charges and sentenced to prison. “Protecting our children from these predatory monsters is this office’s highest calling,” Attorney General Wilson said. “Our investigators and prosecutors gave it their best to assure justice was served.”

 

Michael G. Strother, represented by Teal Johnson, pleaded guilty on January 10, 2019, to one count of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor, 1st degree, in front of Judge McIntosh in Greenville County.  In April 2017, Special Investigator Kevin Atkins with the Attorney General’s Office found one user requesting child pornography on a file sharing network.  Based on subscriber information, a search warrant was then served at the defendant’s residence where he admitted to downloading child pornography.  The defendant also admitted to recording an adult female and a minor female without their consent using hidden cameras.  A forensic analysis of several devices seized from the home was conducted by Special Investigator Chris Bomar with the Attorney General’s Office, which revealed over 14,000 files containing either child pornography or the secret recordings of the two females.

 

Strother was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He forfeited his seized devices and will be required to register as a sex offender.

 

Keith Louis Bennett, represented by Doug Brannon, pleaded guilty on January 7, 2019, to five counts of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor, 3rd degree in front of Judge R. Keith Kelly in Spartanburg County. In July 2017, Mr. Bennett’s wife reported to Spartanburg Sheriff’s office that she found 578 printed images of child pornography in her husband’s vehicle at their home, and that he had admitted to her that the images belonged to him. Inv. Michael Turner with the Sheriff’s office reviewed the images and verified they were in violation of the law. A fingerprint examination was done on the images and fingerprints came back to Mr. Bennett. A search warrant was done on his home, and computer- related items were seized. A forensic examination of the seized devices was conducted by Inv. Chris Bomar of the SCAGO and an additional 80 images of child pornography were found.

 

Mr. Bennett was sentenced to 10 years, suspended to five years in prison, to be followed by five years of probation on all counts, to run concurrently. He forfeited his seized digital devices and will register as a sex offender upon his release.

 

On January 9, 2019, Jerry Blaxton, represented by Michael Morin, pleaded guilty to one count of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor, 3rd degree in Spartanburg County before Judge Keith Kelly.

 

On December 22, 2016, Inv. Kevin Atkins with the SC Attorney General’s Office conducted an investigation of a file sharing network and identified a user of the network had made available for download files containing child pornography.  This led back to Jerry Blaxton of Inman, South Carolina in Spartanburg County.  Inv. Turner with the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office conducted a search warrant at this address, and during the search Mr. Blaxton stated he was responsible for the child pornography.  A forensic examination of seized computer equipment identified 180 additional files of child pornography. 

 

Mr. Blaxton was sentenced to five years in prison to be followed by five years of sex offender probation.  Mr. Blaxton will have to register as a Sex Offender and forfeited his equipment.  At the time of his arrest Mr. Blaxton was a teacher at High Point Academy and a youth minister.

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