Three sentenced for internet sex offense

LINDEN — Circuit Judge Eddie Hardaway Jr. sentenced an Anniston man to a six-year prison term split to 24 months Tuesday for the crime of transmitting obscene material to a child.

Arrested in Anniston by Demopolis Police Department officers in October 2010, 49-year-old Newman Howard Grogan Jr. received his sentence Tuesday despite the tearful pleas of his wife and daughters who were present at the hearing.

“I’m sorry to my wife and I’ve apologized to her over and over. I’m thankful to her for staying with me,” Grogan told the court.

Grogan’s crime transpired during an online chat with what he then believed to be a 14-year-old girl. Over the course of the conversation, Grogan sent nude images of himself to the adolescent, who actually proved to be Demopolis Police Department investigators posing as the teen.

“I’m very sorry for what I’ve done. I’m sorry to the people of Marengo County,” Grogan said. “I’m sorry to the people who had to watch the video of what I’ve done. I made a bad judgment two years ago. It’s costed me dearly. It’s cost me everything me and my wife worked for for 29 years.”

Grogan sought to avoid further incarceration for the crime. As part of the defense, Becky Whitson, a Licensed Professional Counselor with Covenant Counseling of Birmingham, testified on Grogan’s behalf.

“He’s following a plan of recovery,” Whitson, who diagnosed Grogan with what she called Sexual Compulsivity, said. “His sexual history is based on adult females.”

Whitson added that Grogan submitted to a test designed to track his sexual triggers.

“He didn’t indicate any interest in adolescents,” Whitson said. “I’m saying he has to continue to work on it. It’s like alcoholism and the treatment is the same.”

District Attorney Greg Griggers pointed out an apparent discrepancy between Grogan’s testimony in open court and what he allegedly told Whitson of his sexual history. Griggers cited Grogan’s recorded testimony as having indicated a history of sexual attraction toward and inappropriate behavior involving adolescent females.

“You don’t have a complete picture of what his issues are,” Griggers told Whitson, later turning his attention to her assessment of Grogan. “It doesn’t assure us that if we put him on probation, he’s not going to revert back to the same filthy internet stuff he was doing before.”

Grogan was one of four adults Tuesday that faced sentencing for transmitting obscene material to a minor.

“I was satisfied with what the judge did. But, listening to the other pleas from the other defendants that were similarly charged, you saw where we typically try and resolve those cases for a plea to the offense charge, seven years with a split sentence not being objected to if they request it of the court of a year. If somebody wants to plead guilty with that kind of case, our normal procedure is a split sentence of a year,” Griggers said of the case. “Basically, Mr. Grogan for going through the exercise of the trial that we did, he received an additional year to serve, which I think is justified for a number of reasons. One, there was a history that came out during the course of the trial of a prolonged problem with the type conduct that led to his arrest in this case. There had been testimony in that trial from him that he had sought counseling for this problem before. They sounded like they wanted to dispute that (during sentencing) and said that it was marital counseling, but that’s not what I recall from his testimony. In all due respect to the counselor that was there, I’m not the least bit convinced that he’s resolved his issues. I do believe that if he were released today and had access to a computer that he would engage in the same type of conduct. I’m satisfied with what the judge gave him with serving the two years and being a registered sex offender now and there will be some probation on the back end.”

Athens resident Patrick Alward, 59 years old at the time of his arrest in August 2011, received a sentence of seven years with a one-year split for similar crimes. David Duke of Troy, 50 at the time of his arrest in July 2011, received a seven-year sentence split to one year.

Jeremy Martin of Arab, 23 years old at the time of his arrest in June 2011, faced sentencing but failed to attend the hearing. An alias warrant will be issued for his arrest.

Hardaway granted one other individual facing similar charges youthful offender status.