They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and, in Steve Franklin Garrison’s case, changing his behavior isn’t coming easily. As a result, he recently violated his probation on a child-pornography conviction and was sentenced to 60 days in jail.
JUST FIVE months ago, Garrison, 55, of Chantilly, was convicted in Fairfax County Circuit Court of three counts of possession of child pornography. He received a five-year prison sentence – with all but five days suspended.
However, according to his own admission, he violated a condition of his probation. He was then hauled back to jail and, last Friday, March 23, he returned to court for a revocation hearing.
At the outset, his attorney, John T. Graham, detailed the allegations against his client. He said the court had forbid Garrison to initiate contact with anyone under age 18 and to possess or use pornography or sexually stimulating material. It also ordered him to be evaluated for sex-offender treatment and abide by it.
During Garrison’s sentencing in October, Graham told the court how important Garrison’s 35-year-marriage was to him. This time, though, he took his client’s dirty linen out of the hamper and aired it — speaking openly of Garrison’s mistress and child.
In responding to the allegations, Graham said Garrison is “accused of continuing to see the mother of his child, not his wife, after being told not to. [And] he’s accused of having daily contact with friends of his children at his home.” Graham said his client denies these things, with explanations.
However, he said Garrison “admits to lying to his probation officer about possessing adult pornography and viewing it in his home.” Then Garrison’s probation officer, Robert Smith, testified. He said he explained to Garrison the sex-offender rules of his probation and Garrison signed a paper acknowledging he understood them.
“You stated that, several times, the defendant’s family was there while he viewed the pornography?” asked Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Bob McClain. “[Garrison] said they weren’t in the same room with him, but he didn’t say they weren’t in the same house,” replied Smith.
“MR. GARRISON had admitted to viewing adult pornography, one to two hours every week, on his home computer,” continued Smith. “And he had the urge to again seek child pornography. He entered a key word he’d used before to look for child porn, and he found it. He said the child was between 12-14, and he watched the video for approximately two minutes and ejaculated to it. It was Feb. 20 — the date he had an appointment with me at my office.”
Regarding the probation condition of not initiating contact with anyone under age 18, Smith testified that, while in jail, “The defendant placed numerous phone calls to his mistress [who lives with their young child] – and pretty intimate phone calls.”
“And he never reported this activity to you?” asked McClain. “No,” answered Smith. “His phone calls from jail were recorded. He said [to his mistress] that each time he saw her, it would be a violation, and he had no plans not to see her when he got out.” McClain then admitted a CD of these conversations into evidence.
“Garrison came in to see you on Feb. 28?” asked Graham. “As part of his treatment with a doctor in Maryland,” replied Smith. “He admitted viewing adult and child pornography and laid out to you in candor the most intimate details of his sexual life,” said Graham. “He did, in accordance with his probation,” said Smith.
“Was this admission wicked or counterproductive to his probation?” asked Graham. “No,” answered Smith. Afterward, said the probation officer, he had Garrison arrested. He also noted that signs are posted in jail advising inmates that their calls may be monitored.
“In some of those conversations, Garrison called you names, said he was frustrated with the system and wasn’t going to follow the rules?” asked Graham. “Yes,” said Smith. “Then I told the police and they contacted the court for the search warrant [for Garrison’s home computers].”
Graham also asked Smith if he contended that Garrison “continued to have a physical relationship” with his mistress, after Smith had explained the sex-offender provisions of his probation with him, and Smith replied affirmatively. “Did he say he was sleeping with her?” asked Graham. “He did not,” said Smith.
GRAHAM FURTHER got Smith to acknowledge that he’d “inferred” that others were present when Garrison viewed pornography at home because, said Smith, “[Garrison] said he did it at all different times of day.” And when Graham asked Smith what the sentencing guidelines say for Garrison’s probation violation, Smith replied, “Probation.”
Then, addressing Judge Marcus Williams, Graham said, “This is hardball at its worst. In March 2006, [Garrison] started an intense, sex-offender regimen with a group in Maryland, and you’d ordered polygraph tests. His entire family was trying not to leave him at home alone, as much as possible, but his wife was busy taking care of their 16-year-old twins. He has had trouble weaning himself off pornography, and he has an extremely strong, male libido — even at age 55.”
And despite everything that’s happened, Graham said Garrison’s family is still supportive of him. “He’s not out on the street, dragging off women and children and attacking them,” said Graham. “It’s something he’s doing by pressing a few buttons [on a computer]. The family will financially be torn apart if he can’t be back working and supporting them. Mr. Garrison is motivated by two goals — to get himself better and to provide for his family. There should be some positive reinforcement for his honesty. He’s worthy of a second chance.”
However, stressing that Garrison only had to serve five days in jail after being sentenced to five years in prison for three counts of possession of child pornography, McClain said the Chantilly man hadn’t taken his probation seriously.
“Probation is a promise to the court that ‘I’m going to be on my best behavior and won’t get into any more trouble,’” said McClain. “The defendant doesn’t get a free pass simply because he admitted he couldn’t [keep himself away from porn]. This defendant has shown himself to be a dangerous offender, and sex-offender treatment doesn’t work for him. He hasn’t been able to control his behavior.”
Saying that Garrison hadn’t been successful on probation, McClain told the judge: “At this point, I think he has to go to jail, and I’d ask you to [reinstate] a significant amount of his suspended time.”
Williams said the prosecution hadn’t proven that children were present when Garrison had viewed porn; but he noted that, by looking at it when they were in the same house, Garrison “set himself up in a position that could be compromising.” He also ruled there was “inadequate evidence” to find Garrison in violation of seeing his mistress. However, he said Garrison did view a video of a child under age 18 and had possessed adult porn.
“I recognize his candor is what brought him here, in part,” said Judge Williams. “But I’m concerned with the nature of the offenses.” Graham then said his client has agreed to a “chemical intervention” as the next step, if necessary.
Then, addressing Garrison, Williams said, “You’re getting close. But your candor impressed me that, perhaps, your treatment is working. But I am going to impose some of your suspended time – 60 days.” And, he told Graham, “He is to continue treatment – and abide by it.”