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STRUTHERS Man faces jail term in child-porn case



Published: Sat, June 9, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Authorities said the man had thousands of child pornography pictures.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Lewd pictures on his computer and an apparent obsession with a teen-age girl will most likely result in a Struthers man's going to prison.

The sentencing recommendation has become a bone of contention between the prosecutor's office and defense attorney.

Lawrence Plante, 46, of Brandon Avenue, pleaded guilty this week in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to charges including pandering obscenity involving a minor, illegal use of a minor in nudity oriented material and burglary.

As part of a plea agreement, a charge of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity was dismissed.

The county prosecutor's office will recommend 10 years in prison when Plante is sentenced Aug. 9 by Judge Jack Durkin. Plante's attorney, John F. Shultz, was incensed about that.

The plea deal originally called for a three- or four-year sentence, Shultz said. At the last minute, the prosecutor's office "flipped" and insisted on the longer term.

"It's very disturbing," Shultz said. "That office has totally lost credibility with me."

Prosecutor Paul Gains said the plea offer changed because, after further investigation, authorities found more information that warranted the longer sentence.

"It's like anything else," he said. "We find things out and circumstances change. There have been times that we ended up dismissing charges because we find out that the facts just aren't there."

Gains acknowledged that the change put Shultz in an awkward position with his client, but said he did what he felt was right.

Shultz said Plante accepted the plea anyway because he realized that a conviction at trial could have resulted in a total sentence of about 18 or 20 years.

Photographs: Gains said Plante had thousands of explicit photographs on his computer of children having sex.

"I saw one of the pictures, and it made me sick," he said.

Plante was indicted by a county grand jury in January 2000 after a four-month investigation by the Ohio State Highway Patrol and Struthers police.

Authorities said his computer hard drive, confiscated by police, contained some 20,000 child pornography pictures.

Obsession: Gains said Plante had developed an obsession with a female teen-age neighbor. He broke into the girl's house, took pictures inside the home, and stole some of her underwear.

"He seemed to be obsessed with this neighbor girl," Gains said.

Police said Plante sent lewd e-mail to the girl, who ignored it at first but later informed authorities when the e-mail became more graphic.

bjackson@vindy.com




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