A jury found a Sauk County man guilty Wednesday of 40 counts of felony child pornography possession.
It took the jury about an hour and 40 minutes to reach the verdict in the case of 55-year-old John L. Lomax in Sauk County Circuit Court. He was taken into custody, and is scheduled to be sentenced in February.
The maximum sentence on each count is 25 years in prison, which means Lomax could be sentenced to up to 1,000 years of incarceration.
The case centered on whether Lomax knowingly possessed images of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct on a computer in his West Baraboo apartment.
During closing arguments, defense attorney Joseph Viney of Baraboo said it was reasonable to believe the images found on his client’s computer may have been put there by someone else, and remained there without his knowledge.
Prosecutors contended that Lomax was computer savvy, and used special software to download child pornography. Investigators said he was actively deleting files when they entered his apartment in May 2013, likely because he heard them arrive earlier and search his landlord’s home.
Viney said the prosecution’s theory was not consistent, because if Lomax was tech savvy, he would have known that deleting files would not completely erase them from the computer’s hard drive, and that physically destroying the hard drive was his only option.
“If he has the knowledge the state contends he has, why isn’t he himself trying to remove the drives and destroy them?” Viney said.
Sauk County Assistant District Attorney Michael Albrecht reminded jurors of other evidence that suggested Lomax knowingly downloaded and possessed the images in question. He read from lewd phrases found on the computer that analysts determined had been used to search for child pornography.
Albrecht said similar evidence was found on other devices that were not connected to the internet, so it would have been impossible for a hacker to have planted them there.
Albrecht said it was not reasonable for jurors to believe that Lomax may have been the victim of some conspiracy in which someone else planted the evidence against him.
“It’s always possible that aliens came down and planted something,” Albrecht said. “But is that rational? No.”
As the trial wrapped up, Judge Michael Screnock informed attorneys that a prospective juror whose courtroom outburst landed him in jail Monday had apologized.
Screnock said he had received a phone message from Loren H. Wilhelm in which the 71-year-old apologized for an inappropriate remark he made during the jury selection process. Screnock said Wilhelm told him that the dialogue between attorneys and potential jurors brought back memories of a prior event to which Wilhelm was tangentially connected.
“He indicated that he just couldn’t take it anymore,” said Screnock, who is campaigning for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
As jury selection wrapped up Monday, Wilhelm allegedly referred to the defendant with a derogatory name and declared that he was guilty.
Screnock then questioned Wilhelm about the remark on the witness stand, and held him in contempt of court. He ordered that Wilhelm be jailed until Tuesday morning.
Screnock provided the update to attorneys Wednesday afternoon just after the jury began its deliberations.