WESTMINSTER - A 42-year-old Finksburg resident and Baltimore city police officer convicted in September of two child pornography charges was placed on probation before judgment Tuesday in Carroll Circuit Court.
If Robert A. Jones of the 1400 block of Algonquin Court successfully completes his 36 months of probation, the conviction will be wiped from his record.
Jones was found guilty of one count of distributing child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography with intent to distribute by Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck after a two-day trial.
Jones, an officer in the Baltimore police K-9 Unit for 14 years, has been suspended without pay since his arrest in February 1990.
Baltimore defense attorney Terry S. Lavenstein on Tuesday asked Beck to give his client probation before judgment so he will have a chance to get back his job.
"How can we punish him more than taking away his status in the community and the job he loved," said Lavenstein. "Probation before judgment is the proper disposition for this case. You can't unleash any more punishment than has already been placed on him."
Lavenstein told Beck that if his client were given probation before judgment, his job as a police officer would be reinstated immediately. An internal trial board made up of police officers then would decide if Jones' actions were a departmental violation. If so ruled, he could be fired from the force.
Assistant State's Attorney Kathi Hill told Beck that giving Jones probation before judgment was unacceptable.
"I hope the court would not allow him (Jones) to get back into a position of trust with the community," said Hill, who prosecuted the case.
"We in Maryland believe that owning child pornography keeps the wheels of distribution and the wheels of sexual abuse going."
Lavenstein placed some of the blame for his client's legal problems on the General Assembly for enacting a law that says it's legal to possess child pornography, but not legal to trade or buy it.
Hill disagreed, saying Jones was solely responsible for his actions.
Jones' home was raided by U.S. Postal Service inspectors on March 8, 1989, after he responded to an advertisement in "Swingers Advertiser," a publication that lists ads seeking sexually oriented materials or contacts.
The ad was placed in the magazine by then-Philadelphia police detective Dennis Guzy, a specialist in child pornography prosecution.
Guzy, now a special agent with the Child Abuse Protection Unit of the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, testified during the trial that he wrote the ad using code words to attract child pornographers and pedophiles.
Jones answered the ad, and eventually sent Guzy a videocassette tape containing sequences of young children engaging in various sexual activities.
Sixteen days after Guzy received the tape, Jones' home was raided and three videotapes, eight 8mm films and several magazines containing child pornography were seized by investigators.
Jones maintained throughout the trial that he was conducting a "reverse-sting" operation on Guzy, saying he believed from the detective's letters that he was sexually abusing his own children.
Beck rejected that defense, saying Jones concocted the idea of a reverse sting when he discovered he was set up.
In addition to the probation before judgment, Beck gave Jones a $250 fine and ordered him to pay court costs on each count, but then suspended the fine on the second count. The judge also sentenced him to 100 hours of community service on each of the two counts.
Jones had faced a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.