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Man sentenced to 23 years for child porn

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Assistant public defender Debra Lautenschlager speaks with her client John Heide after Chaves County District Judge Freddie J. Romero made a ruling in April 2018 to offer him no conditions of release. Heide was sentenced Monday to 23 years in prison. (File photo)

A man found to be in possession of electronic devices containing more than a dozen pornographic images of under-age males was sentenced Monday to 23 years in prison.

John Heide, 40, of Roswell, was sentenced at a hearing in 5th Judicial District Court in Roswell.

District Judge Kea Riggs sentenced Heide to 11 years in prison to be followed by one year of parole on one count of possession of a visual medium of sexual exploitation of a child under age 13.

On another charge, Heide was sentenced on one count of manufacturing visual medium of sexual exploitation to an additional 12 years in prison, to be followed by no more than 20 but no less than five years on supervised probation upon completion of his prison sentence.

The two sentences will run consecutively or back to back.

Heide will also be required to register as a sex offender for the remainder of his natural life, undergo health screening and perform community service upon completion of his prison sentences. He has 475 days of pre-sentence confinement credit for time served.

Heide initially faced 16 counts of manufacturing visual medium of sexual exploitation of children, all but one of those charges were ultimately dismissed by the prosecution as part of a change-of-plea agreement with Heide, who then changed his plea to guilty on the remaining counts.

Charges against Heide stem from a February 2018 incident at Cahoon Park, when a woman reported a suspicious subject to police when she saw a man, later identified as Heide, sitting on the bleachers near a tennis court alone with his cellphone while watching a group of young boys play tennis.

Court documents state the woman said she thought the man was a sex offender.

Heide, when questioned by police the next day, admitted to being a registered sex offender and that he had gone to the tennis court even though he was not supposed to, according to court documents.

Police checked Heide’s cellphone and observed multiple pornographic images, some easily identifiable as under-age males, but denied in later interviews that he had any other child pornography.

He eventually told police of an SD card he had hidden at his mother’s house in a pencil box that contained additional pornographic images of minors and a cellphone Heide said belonged to his mother later found to have similar images.

Heide maintained that he had found the images on the internet and had not taken them himself.

When presenting their recommendation for sentencing, J. Michael Thomas, deputy Chaves County district attorney, said he was presenting a sentencing range of 15 to 23 years incarceration for Heide. He urged the judge to impose a sentence closer to the 23-year range, citing Heide’s history as a sex offender.

Debra Lautenschlager, assistant public defender representing Heide, told the court the defense recommended a sentence on the lower end of the range. She said Heide had observed, not approached children at the tennis court.

Before imposing her sentence, Riggs told Heide that he had been through the parole and court system previously. She added that he had put himself in a position that he knew he was not supposed to be in and one where he not only could re-offend but would re-offend.

Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at breakingnews@rdrnews.com.