CORNER BROOK Justice Robert Stack said if he had tried Mark Baxter White and found him guilty, he would be giving him more than two years in prison for coercing a teenage girl to perform sexual acts online.
Instead, the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador judge in Goose Bay endorsed a joint submission from the Crown and defence to give the 43-year-old former high school teacher the two-year prison term for the four offences to which White had entered guilty pleas.
White, who is from Corner Brook, but was a teacher in Happy Valley-Goose Bay when he was arrested in March 2010, pleaded guilty to making, possessing and distributing child pornography and using a computer system to lure a child.
According to an agreed statement of facts submitted to the court, a 16-year-old girl complained to police in her home state of Washington in the United States in June 2009 that she had been coerced into performing a sexual act via a social media networking website.
White had been using an alias profile that depicted him to be a girl in her late teens, and had been helping the victim use the site because she was a new user. The two then began chatting on the MSN Messenger chat program.
On MSN, White asked the girl to disrobe for him on her computer’s webcam. When the girl refused, White threatened to post images of naked women with the girl’s face on the images and distribute the doctored photos on the Internet.
The girl, who told White’s alias she was 16 years old, complied and performed sexual acts as directed by White on her webcam. The video White recorded was about 44 minutes in length.
After she complained to the police, a detective from the Missing and Exploited Children Task Force in Washington took over the girl’s MSN account and, posing as the girl, engaged White in conversation.
White demanded the girl turn on her webcam. The detective stated she was only 16 and that White would be in trouble if he posted any images of her.
“Don’t worry about me,” White replied.
White then sent the video he had of the girl to her account, along with a threat that he would distribute it on the Internet if she did not turn on her webcam.
The officer posing as the girl recorded the entire interaction. The subsequent investigation revealed the account the 16-year-old girl had been communicating with belonged to White in Goose Bay.
Search warrant executed
The RCMP were contacted and a search warrant was executed on White’s residence in Goose Bay in March 2010.
The video of the 16-year-old girl was located on White’s seized computer. So were 39 other movies and 112 photos categorized as child pornography.
Possessing child pornography carries a minimum sentence of 45 days in prison and a five-year maximum sentence. All three of the other charges against White carry minimum one-year sentences and maximum 10-year sentences.
Despite the seriousness of the Internet luring charge and the element of extortion in White’s behaviour, Crown attorney Robin Fowler agreed with defence counsel Keir O’Flaherty that White should be given one year each, to be served concurrently, for the luring, making and distributing offences. They suggested the one year requested for the possession charge would be served consecutively.
“Certainly, had I tried Mr. White and found him guilty of the charges involving (the 16-year-old girl), he would have been subjected to a more stringent sentence ... (The joint submission) recognizes that it is important that, when the offender is sentenced for his three crimes against (the 16-year-old), he not be given a ‘free pass’ on the charge of possession of child pornography which involved the victimization of other girls,” Stack said in his written decision on the case.
Stack noted other mitigating factors in White’s favour included his lack of prior convictions, his remorse, his co-operation with investigators and subsequent guilty pleas.
The aggravating factors included the coercion of the young girl, and the second attempt when the police officer was posing as the victim. The judge also noted that White’s job as a teacher meant he had regular contact with girls of a similar age as his victims.
“I make this last point notwithstanding that there was no direct connection made between Mr. White’s criminal activity and his role as a teacher — certainly none of the girls depicted in the criminal images were students at the school where he taught,” noted Stack.
The judge also said he was concerned that White was never formally assessed to determine if he had any underlying pornography addiction that might be of concern to the court if not properly treated.