Daniel Scott Neal, a former Hancock County High School teacher and track coach, was sentenced to 20 years in prison Monday morning for possessing videos of child pornography.
Neal, 49, of the 700 block of Walnut Park Drive, was found guilty of 12 counts of possession of material depicting a sexual performance by a minor in July. The jury recommended Neal receive a two-year sentence on each charge, with the charges to run consecutively for a total of 24 years in prison. But the charges are Class D felonies and cannot be stacked for more than a 20-year sentence.
At trial, Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Mike Van Meter said investigators from the Attorney General's cybercrimes branch detected a device at Neal's I.P. address sharing child pornography. Investigators found "hundreds" of photos and videos of child pornography, along with articles on how to remove files from hard drives to fool a forensic investigation, Van Meter said.
Prosecutors chose only to pursue 12 indictments against Neal. He was convicted after a three-day trial. As part of his sentence, Neal will have to register as a sex offender for his lifetime.
At Monday's sentencing hearing, Neal's attorney, Wesley Milliken, presented a motion for a new trial, requested probation instead of incarceration and asked Neal be released on bond while he appeals his conviction. Neal has been out on bond most of the time since his 2012 indictment without a new criminal charge, Milliken said.
"He has strong family and community support," Milliken said, adding that Neal had letters of support from former students "that credit Scott for helping them become successful, productive people."
Milliken said the sex offender report compiled to be considered at sentencing showed Neal had no history of sexual violence. He said Neal also has significant health problems.
"We frankly are worried about his surviving his incarceration," Milliken said.
Neal testified he spent seven days in jail after his conviction in July before bonding out, and immediately suffered health problems, including heart and liver failure, and pneumonia, and was in the hospital's critical care unit for 23 days.
"I won't make it through (incarceration) in the shape I'm in," Neal said.
Van Meter noted the sex offender report says Neal is not amenable for treatment and that he "did not take responsibility for any of the offenses."
Neal told Van Meter he did agree to sex offender treatment but would not say he was guilty of possessing child pornography.
"The truth is I'm innocent. That's why I fought for so many years," Neal said.
To Neal's claim of innocence, Van Meter said, "a jury determined otherwise."
"In fact, the recommended sentence was in excess of what the law allows," Van Meter said. "That's telling."
Van Meter said possession of child pornography is not a victimless crime.
"Every time an individual views these images, victims are victimized over and over again," Van Meter said. Neal is "not amenable to treatment because there is no responsibility taken by him," he said.
Daviess Circuit Judge Joe Castlen sentenced Neal to 20 years, denying the defense motions for probation, bail or a new trial.
Castlen told Neal the evidence presented at trial "was simply overwhelming."
The juveniles depicted in the images "are really foremost in my mind," Castlen said. "What would they say, or their parents say, if they were here today? ... They were only able to speak through the jury.
"A sentence serves notice to people in our community of the seriousness of the offenses," Castlen said.
Neal was taken into custody and has the right to appeal.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, email@example.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse