Less than two months after a former Orange County soccer coach was arrested for possession of over two thousand images of child pornography, a San Bernardino social studies teacher has been arrested and charged with the same offense. After being arrested, Eugene Ballantyne, a teacher at Arrowview Middle School confessed to additional crimes, including travelling 180 miles to have sex with a 17-year-old girl. There is no indication that Ballantyne had inappropriate contact with any of the students at his school.
Like, Robert Vincent Peace, who was arrested in late January for coercing a 13-year-old girl to send him sexually explicit images, Ballantyne is also accused of exchanging pornographic images with a 13-year-old girl. Both men met the girls in internet chat rooms. Neither men have any prior history of child pornography charges.
In addition to sharing images with each other, Ballantyne is accused of making demands on the girl that included having her perform sexual acts on herself while talking on the phone with Ballantyne.
California has strict penalties for the possession of child pornography. Under state law, possession of child pornography may be punishable as a misdemeanor or felony offense. Penalties can be quite severe. A misdemeanor first offense may be punished by a year in county jail and/or a fine of $2,500. Felony offenses can require extensive time in state prison. If you have previous violation, any new offense drastically increases your potential time in prison.
A person may also face federal charges for possession of child pornography. The punishment for a conviction may be enhanced based on a number of factors, including but not limited to:
- Whether the defendant had substantial sexual conduct with a child
- The age of the child involved
- Whether the images include sadistic or masochistic content
- The number of images seized
- Whether the offense included the use of a computer
- Whether the images were distributed to others
In addition, anyone convicted of knowingly possessing child pornography is also required to register as a sex offender under the state’s Sex Offender Registration Act. Failure to register is a crime itself.
Because the penalties for a conviction of child pornography are so severe, it is critical that anyone charged with the possession of child pornography have a strong defense. An experienced and aggressive Riverside criminal defense attorney can evaluate all of the facts of the case and will look for any deficiencies in the prosecution. Knowing where to look for weaknesses in the prosecution’s case is the first step in preparing a defense. If you are arrested for child pornography, you should contact a San Bernardino criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.