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Five Days Jail for Child-Porn Charges

Before being sentenced to jail for three counts of possessing child pornography, the Chantilly husband and father of three apologized for his actions and vowed to straighten up and fly right.

"Over the past year, my life has taken a nasty detour and I take full responsibility for that," said Steve Franklin Garrison, 54, of 4312 Poplar Branch Drive. "And no matter what I have to do to get my life back on track, I'll do it."

HE WAS ONCE a Fairfax County employee — working as a building inspector since January 1998 — but that was before his prurient interest came to light. On Oct. 6, 2005, Garrison was arrested by the Northern Virginia-Washington, D.C., Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. He resigned from his job four days later.

Acting on information provided by Maryland Police Sgt. David Biser — a detective with the Combined County Investigative Unit in Cumberland, Md., — the Task Force executed a search warrant at Garrison's home and seized 26 CDs and a Hewlett/Packard computer.

In the affidavit for that search warrant, Biser wrote that a 19-year-old woman who'd reportedly met Garrison on Internet chat rooms said she'd had a sexual relationship with him. The document also stated that she filed a child-pornography complaint against Garrison in Maryland.

The woman reported that “Garrison has been bringing videos of a pornographic nature with him [to the hotel where they met],” wrote the sergeant. He also stated that the children in the videos were allegedly as young as 6 or 7 months old, and the woman “was upset that Garrison was looking at such young children in pornographic settings.”

Biser noted, as well, that a "quick review" of several compact discs Garrison had left with her — and that she'd turned over to the police — confirmed what she'd said about their content. Wrote the sergeant: "The images portrayed children, infants in some videos, engaged in a variety of sexual activity with adult persons."

The grand jury indicted the Chantilly man on March 20, and he pleaded guilty May 9, in Circuit Court, before Judge Marcus Williams. He returned Oct. 13 for sentencing and, at the outset, defense attorney John T. Graham told Williams that, of the 26 CDs taken by police, "only seven contained the prohibited material."

Graham also noted that Garrison was charged with 45 counts of possession of child pornography in Allegheny County, Md., but all these charges are misdemeanors. He said Garrison met the woman in that county during the course of using the Internet.

ALONG THE LINES of reasoning that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing," Graham said his client initially didn't know how to surf the net. But then, said the attorney, "Over a period of time from ages 50 to 54 now, he became conversant in the use of the Internet [to view] both adult and child pornography."

However, Graham admitted that, by so doing, Garrison was "furthering that industry and enabling it to exist." Still and all, he said, Garrison's family has stuck by him. Garrison met his wife in high school, and they've been married 35 years. They've lived in Chantilly for 16 years and have twins, 16, and a son at JMU. That son and Garrison's wife were in court to show their support for him at sentencing.

After his arrest, said Graham, Garrison told his wife what he'd done and cooperated fully with the state police during their investigation. "As soon as he realized the predicament he was in," said Graham, Garrison submitted himself to two doctors for treatment.

One performed a complete, psychological and sexual-abuse evaluation, and the other — a noted clinical psychologist — started Garrison in therapy in March. Graham said one doctor concluded that "Garrison — given his age, stable family background and no prior record — poses little risk for going from auto-erotic, fantasy enjoyment to physical contact. And he's never engaged in physical contact [with minors]."

He said Garrison had a 20-year career in air conditioning and heating before becoming a master inspector for Fairfax County, and he's now returned to this field.

"He's undergone a complete transformation and been honest and aboveboard with everyone," said Graham. "And he's considered to be as minimal a threat to the public as possible. There are four buttons to press on a computer to cough up this stuff. My client did peer-to-peer communications, and the images received aren't always the ones requested."

Graham said Garrison has done "everything humanly possible to address the issue and redeem himself in the eyes of his family, neighbors and friends. He's not the type of person to do this kind of thing, and he's never going to repeat it again. His marital relationship has been rekindled, and his life is as normal as it can be."

Nonetheless, said Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Kyle Manikas, "These facts don't change the seriousness of these charges. This wasn't a one-time event; it was done repeatedly, over a three- to four-year period. And this was not a victimless crime because, every time these photos are downloaded, these children are victimized and it furthers this industry."

Furthermore, said Manikas, "The defendant was aroused by these photos and used them in role-playing, so it suggests that his use of these images was progressing." He then asked Judge Williams to sentence Garrison to "some active jail time and a substantial period of probation" so he'd have some time hanging over his head if he ever gets into trouble again."

MANIKAS ALSO recommended that Garrison be ordered into sex-offender treatment that requires periodic polygraph tests. Then Garrison stood and addressed the court prior to being sentenced.

"I want to say how truly sorry I am," he said. "Because of my poor decision-making process, I almost destroyed what my wife and I spent a lifetime trying to build. And I'm taking steps for corrective action and lifestyle changes."

Williams then sentenced Garrison to five years in prison on each of his three charges, suspending all that time, except for five days. He then ran the sentences concurrently and ordered Garrison placed on supervised probation for three years.

The judge also ordered him to receive sex-abuse evaluation and treatment and to continue with the therapy programs he's already begun. Williams further ordered Garrison to register as a sex offender. And as a convicted felon, a sample of his DNA was taken for placement into Virginia's data bank for felons.

"I'm suspending [most of your sentence] because you have no prior record," Williams told Garrison. "But the court is concerned about the nature of this crime, so that's why the court has ordered the evaluation and treatment to continue."