A Cleveland, Tn., man, who was referred to as a “monster” at a sentencing hearing, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for exploitation of a minor and possession of child pornography. Federal Judge Sandy Mattice also sentenced Daniel Steward to 15 years of probation.
In Feb. 2018, Steward was caught with over 100,000 images of child pornography. A homeland security agent also noticed that one of the children appeared to be a Skype contact.
After further investigation, it was discovered that Steward had driven down to Florida, picked up the 11-year-old minor, took him to a hotel, and then created sexually explicit images of the minor.
Myrlene Marsa focused on her client’s otherwise spotless criminal record. Aside from the crime Steward had pled guilty to, he had no prior criminal history whatsoever.
So, while the maximum guideline sentence was 262 months, she asked the judge to lower the sentence to 180 months. The prosecuting attorney had no objections, and Judge Mattice agreed to keep the sentence at 180 months.
The prosecuting attorney also noted that Steward’s immediate admission of guilt spared the victim from having to go to trial, and that was a factor in the sentencing.
After the framework of the sentence was put in place, the mother of the witness was allowed to speak. With a paper in her hand, she stepped up to the podium, and momentarily stared down the man who sexually exploited her son.
“He stole my son’s childhood and innocence. Who gave him the right to take that from him?” said the mother. She continued by saying, “This monster knew exactly what he was doing.”
She later spoke about how her son was affected by the situation, and how he now is afraid of any sort of social situation.
She told the judge that her son was “ashamed” of what had happened and wanted to move on from it. She then focused her attention back to Steward.
“God is merciful, and I hope and pray this man will never be able to do this to another child again.”
After the victim’s mother spoke, Steward was given an opportunity to address the court.
“Words cannot express the remorse I feel. I apologize to the victim’s family,” said Steward. He then apologized to his own friends and family, and told the court that he hoped to “mend” his relationship with them after leaving prison in 15 years.
Judge Mattice also mandated that Steward pay restitution to the victim, even though the amount would not be specified until a later date. Steward will be required to undergo a sex offender and drug evaluation, and will have to partake in mental health treatment.
“Fifteen years is a long, tough sentence, but you’ve earned it,” said Judge Mattice, “I hope, one day, you can find some level of redemption.”