COEUR d’ALENE — A 39-year-old Coeur d’Alene man, called a “repeat sex-offender” by the prosecution, was sentenced to 16 years in prison for possession of child pornography and a probation violation on Wednesday in Kootenai County District Court.
James Morales, who worked doing odd-jobs in the community and played in a band, pleaded guilty to three counts of possession of child pornography as well as the probation violation. However, he and his defense attorney advocated for a six-month rehabilitation program rather than the imprisonment sentence recommended by Kootenai County Deputy Prosecutor Joshua Studor.
“The judge didn’t feel treatment would be enough to have Morales back safely in the community,” Studor said.
In 2007, Morales pleaded guilty to repeated sexual contact with a child, and was sentenced to six years, with three of those fixed. That sentence was suspended and Morales was placed on probation.
Four years later, law enforcement began investigating Morales for possession of sexually exploitative materials. Using information gathered from Morales’ activity on the peer-to-peer file sharing program eMule, detectives found 163 “files of interest.”
Those “files of interest” included videos depicting adults performing sexual acts with children as young as six and Morales began downloading the images and videos in November of 2012 – immediately after his probation status was changed to unsupervised.
“Morales has noted that he does not view the girls or boys in these videos as being victims,” Studor said. “(His) attitude toward the case before this court also indicates a low likelihood of success in out-patient treatment. Even after completing sex offender treatment he refuses to take accountability for his prior sex offense.”
That refusal to take accountability, according to Studor, also included attempts by Morales and his defense team to remove any mention of the word “child” from investigative documents and psychological evaluations - wanting instead for the documents to state that he was interested in pornography that showed women without pubic hair.
Studor told the court that child pornography offenders often minimize what they have done by claiming that since they are not physically abusing the minors they aren’t doing anything wrong.
“These arguments ignore the fact that every time video or photo of a child being victimized is traded and viewed, the child is victimized over and over again,” Studor said.
In his sentencing recommendation to the court, Studor illustrated the repeated victimization caused by the distribution of child pornography by referencing a court statement made by a victim in a 2009 Washington case.
“When I was told how many people had viewed these images and videos, I thought my pulse would stop,” the victim said, during the sentencing of her abuser. “Thinking about all of those sick perverts viewing my body, being ravished and hurt like that makes me feel like I’m being raped by each and every one of them.”
In making his case for Morales’ sentencing to include prison time rather than rehabilitation programs, Studor called him “a repeat sex offender who takes no accountability for his actions, shows no remorse, and whose release poses an unacceptable risk to the children of this and any other community.”
“However, unlike many other cases, society cannot be protected merely by rehabilitation,” Studor said. “Rather society is protected from this sexual predator by a period of incarceration, which simply removes the defendant from the society in which he hunts.”