ST. GEORGE — A Hurricane man was sentenced during a hearing held Thursday on multiple charges after task force agents recovered videos of children, some as young as 2, being sexually abused and raped by adults, during the months-long investigation involving multiple agencies.
On Thursday, 32-year-old Nicholas David Kane appeared before District Judge Michael G. Westfall for sentencing on four counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. The defendant was originally charged with 10 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, but six were dismissed as part of the plea agreement.
Kane, who resided with his wife and two young daughters at the time of his arrest, became the subject of an investigation that began in April by local agents with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, along with several local law enforcement agencies, after the task force received information that inappropriate images depicting children were being transferred using a peer-to-peer network.
Once agents were able to match the IP address to Kane they obtained a search warrant for the his residence in Hurricane, which took place on June 10. During the search, forensic examiners reportedly found a program that was used to transfer child pornography files installed on the suspect’s cell phone.
Also discovered were files containing child pornography depicting images of children, some as young as 6, being raped and assaulted, as well as images and videos of “infants, toddlers and young prepubescent children being hung upside down, raped and sodomized.”
Agents also recovered a video on the defendant’s cell phone depicting a child who appeared to be 9 years old wearing dark sunglasses purportedly used to blindfold the youngster being raped by a man whose face was not visible in the video, court records revealed. Kane was arrested and booked into jail in Washington County later that same day.
The charges were originally filed by the Washington County Attorney’s Office, but within days of Kane’s arrest in June, the case was picked up by the Utah Attorney General’s Office and included the same 10 charges. Utah Assistant Attorney General Shelley Coudreaut was assigned to prosecute the case and ordered that Kane be held without bail.
Thursday’s hearing opened with discussions surrounding the presentence report that was submitted by Adult Probation and Parole recommending that Kane be sentenced to prison, which Westfall noted was primarily due to “the lengthy period of time over which this very disturbing sexual exploitation has been continuing.”
Court records indicate that Kane told investigators he had been watching videos depicting the sexual abuse of children since he was 12-years-old.
Kane’s defense attorney, Ryan Stout, opened by saying despite the recommendation of prison as outlined in the report, he reminded the court of Utah’s sentencing guidelines.
“I don’t mind telling the court and anticipated most likely that there would be a recommendation for 210 days of jail,” Stout said.
Stout said both parties reached an agreement prior to the hearing proposing that Kane be sentenced to one year in jail with credit for good time, along with standard probation terms once his client is released.
As to the statement his client made to officers regarding the age at which he started watching videos involving child pornography, Stout said the defendant has not been viewing images as disturbing as the ones described in charging documents, which the attorney described as “the worst of the worst descriptions” of the evidence recovered during the investigation.
The attorney also said that even though his client was not directly involved in the sexual abuse of the children as depicted in the videos, Kane was becoming aware there was “somebody” directly involved in abusing the children.
Stout closed by saying his client takes full responsibility for his actions, as evidenced by the fact Kane never challenged his detention and pleaded guilty to the charges within months of his arrest.
Kane also addressed the court by saying his actions have caused pain and trauma to all victims involved in this “horrible” crime taking place in the world. He also referred to his wife who had supported him throughout the case and continues to do so.
That is when the stipulated agreement that both sides entered into prior to the hearing was brought up in open court, and set in motion a lengthy discussion that ensued as both sides argued their position.
Stout said both sides agreed that Kane would be sentenced to one year in jail with credit for good time, along with standard probation terms once his client is released. Stout argued it would be an appropriate sentence, considering his client had only a benign criminal history and strong family support, as well as a strong employment history. The attorney also asked the court to consider his client’s “rough upbringing,” which did not excuse the behavior, but was a factor to be considered.
He also said it was treatment that his client needed, which Kane had already initiated with the VA before his arrest, but had not gotten very far.
Westfall then asked the prosecutor to confirm that the state agreed to “only request a year in jail.”
Coudreaut confirmed by saying: “The state will hold to that agreement.”
The prosecutor continued by going over the defendant’s statements that were included in the presentence report, saying she had concerns that Kane was only looking at how these crimes had affected him, and without a change in mindset, which she said could hinder the defendant’s ability to be successful while on probation.
The prosecutor also requested that Kane be placed on a minimum of 48 months’ probation, as it takes at least that long, and upwards of 60 months, to complete sex offender treatment.
Westfall said he has granted probation on similar cases in the past, but this case was different, largely due to the descriptions of what the defendant was viewing – which is disturbing, he said.
“And obviously, if people like Mr. Kane didn’t subscribe to and watch that stuff, then these 2-year-old children would not be victimized the way that they are and videotaped so that other people can satisfy their deviant sexual interests,” the judge said.
Westfall also referred to the letters received by the court from family members, and said he expected that Kane, who had “spent time exploiting 2-year-old children by looking at this kind of stuff” would have family members who supported him and would outline the positive aspects to his life.
“But these are very disturbing crimes,” the judge said.
Westfall then said that prior to the hearing, he was leaning more toward sending the defendant to prison. But after being reminded of the discussions in chambers prior to the hearing, and reviewing the settlement agreement, he suspended all four consecutive terms of 1-15 years in Utah State Prison, and instead sentenced Kane to serve one year in jail with credit for time served – but no good time.
He also ordered the defendant to be placed on 60-months’ probation and then imposed conditions that would require that Kane change a “substantial amount” of his behaviors.
“And if you don’t, then I will not hesitate to send you to prison,” Westfall said.
The judge ordered that Kane adhere to level A sex offender requirements, the highest level a defendant can be placed on, which includes the requirement to register as a sex offender for life.
He also ordered that restitution be left open for one year and that Kane pay victim restitution to any of the children who have been identified, which is problematic in these types of cases, he said.
“The sad thing is these victims are often never identified, and we don’t know what ever happened to them. That is one of the real tragedies of this whole situation, that they remain victims for the rest of their lives,” Westfall said.
Kane was also ordered to have no contact with anyone under the age of 18, including relatives, without prior approval from Adult Probation and Parole, his attorney and any treatment providers.
“That includes his own children,” the judge said.
The judge ordered that Kane relinquish any evidence, including the mobile devices that contained the “disturbing child pornography,” and that he complete sex offender treatment and comply to all requirements. Kane is also not allowed to access the internet without approval from his probation officer.
Westfall also mentioned that even though the stipulated agreement precluded Coutreaut from filing a case in federal court, being that she is cross-deputized and can prosecute both state and federal cases, he said that had no bearing on whether the U.S. Attorney’s Office could become involved at some point.
Westfall closed by saying he wanted to make it extremely clear that Kane was to be placed on “zero tolerance probation,” and went over what would happen should the defendant deviate from any of the terms.
“So if there is a violation I want brought to my attention, and then I intend to deal with it fairly severely,” the judge said.
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