A Wisconsin Dells man who pleaded no contest in July to possession of child pornography was sentenced Tuesday to four years in prison.
Gregory Heep, 28, appeared in Columbia County Circuit Court for sentencing. After his July 7 plea, the Department of Corrections prepared a pre-sentencing investigation, offering recommendations to Judge Alan J. White, although attorneys had not reached an agreement.
Following months of investigation, special agents with the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation arrived at Heep’s home with a search warrant on March 19, 2014. There they confiscated his laptop, another computer and accessories.
An agent found files on the laptop including videos of children in sexual activities and images of underage boys in sexually explicit positions. According to the agents, Heep then told them about his past years of downloading that type of material, telling them that he would download it every few days.
“It is concerning that not only was Mr. Heep downloading and viewing,” said Assistant District Attorney Brenda Yaskal, “but sharing child pornography.”
She also noted that while in Columbia County Jail, Heep reportedly had sexual contact with two other inmates, in one case, of a “non-consensual nature” according to the individual.
Defense attorney Amanda Riek explained to White regarding what happened in jail, the first incident was “100 percent consensual,” and the second likely involving a “misunderstanding,” as Heep “may have trouble reading social cues.”
The incidents in jail, Reik said, “may not be normal to us, but are not criminal or predatory.”
Heep’s parents sat in the back of the courtroom, offering support when White opened the floor to testimony on the defendant’s behalf.
“I’ve never heard anything of him hurting anyone,” his father told White. “I think he’s misguided on this and I want to see him get the help he needs and not just to lock him up.”
Given a chance to speak for himself, Heep apologized to the court and his parents, saying, “I’m willing to do whatever is necessary to prove I deserve a second chance.”
“I’m not saying that you’re the one producing this,” White said, “the issue here is that children are the victims.”
This is also the legal basis of the prosecution with the Supreme Court’s 1990 Osborne v. Ohio finding that consumers of child pornography are culpable by creating the demand that results in exploitation of children.
White cited the pre-sentencing investigation, reporting that Heep, “believed he didn’t harm anyone.”
“I get that,” White said. “But it is not true.”
For this reason White said, the Wisconsin State Legislature went out of its way to make possession of child pornography one of the few offenses with a mandatory minimum sentence — three years in prison.
White sentenced Heep to four years in prison and six years of extended supervision upon release. Once free, he will be subject to sex offender registration, required to undergo sex offender treatment and under order to have no contact with minors.
After spending 580 days in jail, held on a $10,000 cash bond, Heep has yet to serve over two years of his sentence.
White highlighted that in this instance, a court may sentence a defendant to up to 25 years in prison, so given Heep’s youth, he will have a second chance.