A Ruckersville man was found guilty on May 30 of three counts of solicitation of a juvenile between 15-17 years old and one count of possession of child pornography. The jury recommended 15 years after deliberating for more than an hour in the punishment phase. Retired Judge Daniel Bouton presided.

Harold Edward Brown Jr., 34, pleaded not guilty in Greene County Circuit Court to the four felony charges. Five women and seven men were seated on the jury early last Thursday.

Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Morgane Zander said Brown used Facebook Messenger to contact a girl that he knew was 16 years old and request nude photos. Zander noted that Brown knew the victim’s age and that she was special needs and she’s a classmate of his sister.

At 11:41 p.m. on April 22, 2018, the victim sent a semi-nude photo to Brown, as well as video chatted with him, according to Zander. When the victim testified she pointed to Brown as the person she had been chatting with online.

Her father contacted the Greene County Sheriff’s Office and Investigator Jason Tooley took over the victim’s Facebook account on April 23, 2018, communicating with Brown as if he was the young girl.

Tooley testified that during his discussions with the defendant via Facebook Messenger that Brown asked for nude photos repeatedly.

The jury was able to see the 30-minute interview between the deputy and Brown.

“Did you ask to see her naked?” Tooley asked Brown at one point to which he said no.

After learning that he had been chatting with the officer, Brown admitted to the conversations.

Tooley asked Brown if he recalled the conversation asking about what color her bra and panties were, to which Brown admitted he did.

“Do you feel bad about what you did?” Tooley asked Brown.

“Yes,” he said.

Tooley asked him why he picked that individual to ask for nude photos and Brown responded, “Honestly I don’t know.”

The defense rested with no evidence submitted or witnesses called.

“The commonwealth has to prove each charge beyond a reasonable doubt,” Brown’s attorney David Randle told the jury in closing. “The three charges that have to do with solicitation have to be done with a lascivious intent.”

He said there was no lascivious intent in asking for the photos.

“He was not sending photos of himself or (masturbating),” Randle said. “I think that’s where the commonwealth comes short.”

Zander responded, “I urge you to read the Facebook chat log … the lascivious intent is there.”

The jury was given the case at 4:25 p.m. and deliberated for 30 minutes before returning with the guilty verdicts.

The punishment phase immediately followed with testimony from the victim’s father and therapist for the prosecution and Brown’s father for the defense.

“The victim is a very sweet naive vulnerable girl,” said Carole Nelson, the victim’s therapist. “She doesn’t understand the consequences of being online.”

The victim’s father said his daughter has had emotional outbursts, as well as putting on layers and layers of clothing on when going to school since the incident last year.

“It just breaks my heart,” he said.

Harold Edward Brown Sr. testified that his son would be able to continue to live with him in Ruckersville if released.

The commonwealth asked for 30 years, noting Brown took the young girl’s innocence.

“A father’s greatest fear came true; his daughter was preyed upon by an adult. She doesn’t understand how dangerous (the internet) can be. He preyed on a vulnerable child,” Zander said. “It’s fair to say he was hounding her for naked pictures.”

Randle asked the jury put the event in the proper context.

“I don’t condone the behavior. You’re the voice of the community, look at what he did,” Randle said. “It’s not right, but it doesn’t warrant 30 years.”

The jury recommended two years in prison for the first count of solicitation, three years for the second and five years for the third. They also recommended five years for the child pornography charge.

Zander asked for a psychosexual evaluation of Brown prior to sentencing in September and that Judge Bouton stay with the case, to which he agreed. Sentencing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 12.

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Editor, Greene County Record

Terry Beigie is the Editor of the Greene County Record in Stanardsville. She can be reached at tbeigie@greene-news.com or (434) 985-2315.

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