A former Baltimore police officer received probation yesterday and a chance to clear his record of two convictions for child pornography stemming from his mailing a graphic videotape to a Philadelphia police "sting" operation last year.
Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck of Carroll County gave Robert A. Jones, 42, of Finksburg 36 months of supervised probation, during which he is to perform 200 hours of community service, and fined him $250 plus court costs.
If the probation is completed, Jones will not have the convictions on his record.
The maximum penalty is 10 years and a $10,000 fine, although prosecutors said the judge's sentence met guidelines for first offenders.
Jones has said that he sent the tape after he answered a personal ad in Swingers Advertiser by a couple named only as Vince and Mary and received a reply from them indicating they were sexually abusing their children.
His plan, he said, was to send them a tape from his pornography collection to win their trust, learn their identities and turn them in to police. What he didn't know was that the "Vince and Mary" ad was placed by a Philadelphia detective in the department's sex crimes unit.
"Your honor, I realize that sending the tape was a crime, no matter what my intentions were," Jones told the judge before sentencing yesterday. "I still stand behind my intentions of trying to do something instead of doing nothing."
Judge Beck rejected that defense, as he did during a non-jury trial in September.
Possession of child pornography isn't a crime in Maryland, the judge and the attorneys noted, but distributing it is illegal. A March 1989 search of the Jones home revealed some 2,000 tapes and films, most of them sexually explicit, authorities said. Jones said he began collecting the material during the 1950s.
After his arrest, Jones was suspended without pay from his job as a K-9 patrolman with the Police Department. He was fired after the judge found him guilty, said his attorney, Terry S. Lavenstein.
As a result of the probation before judgment he was given yesterday, the lawyer said Jones could be reinstated as an officer.
Police spokesman Dennis S. Hill said, "We will wait until we receive official notification of the action, and our legal affairs office will review the situation."