Probation sentence thrown out of court

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Staff and wire report

A federal appellate court threw out the probation sentence imposed in a child pornography case in Selma and told the federal judge who sentenced the defendant to re-sentence the man.

Bruce Clayton Pugh of Selma pleaded guilty in March 2006 to a federal charge of knowingly possessing child pornography, including video clips of the rape of an infant, and video of an adult male sexually abusing a young girl. Although the advisory federal sentencing guidelines called for a prison term of 97 to 120 months and a lifetime of post-release supervision, the U.S. District Court imposed a five-year probation sentence.

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The government appealed.

The Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit tossed out the sentence, saying that &8220;a sentence of probation, without a single day in jail or any period or supervised release is an unreasonable one.&8221;

The 11th Circuit sent back the case to allow the lower court to re-evaluate the sentence.

The 50-page opinion released last week also stated that the sentence, &8220;utterly failed to adequately promote general deterrence, reflect the seriousness of Pugh&8217;s offense, show respect for the law, or address in any way the relevant [sentencing] guideline policy statements and directives.

U.S. attorney Deborah Rhodes praised the ruling in this rare government-initiated appeal of a defendant&8217;s sentence.

On re-sentencing, Pugh faces a maximum of 10 years in federal prison.