BY KEN LITTLE
Stanley Weems was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Greeneville to a 15-year prison term.
Weems, 68, formerly of Lost Mountain Pike, entered a guilty plea in November 2011 in federal court to a charge of production of child pornography.
A three-count indictment returned in September 2011 against Weems by a federal grand jury in Greeneville charged him with the production of child pornography count, in addition to possession of child pornography, and grooming a minor for purposes of sexual exploitation.
The second and third counts were dismissed in connection with Weems pleading guilty to the first charge. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ronnie Greer.
Plea agreement terms include a minimum prison sentence of 15 years and lifetime supervised release after prison. Weems also must register with the state sex offender registry upon release from prison.
During sentencing, Greer said that, given Weems' age, his release from prison may never happen.
To "a man 68 years of age," the judge said, 15 years could amount to "what will be a life sentence."
There is no parole in the federal system, but Weems is eligible for up to 15 percent of the time off for good behavior.
Weems' age is one factor that prosecutors considered in signing off on the plea agreement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert M. Reeves said in court.
Greer separated the issue of victim restitution in the case, which will be addressed at an upcoming hearing after prosecutors are provided more information about additional allegations made by the victim.
Separate civil cases filed against Weems in federal and local courts are also pending.
WEEMS IN COURT
Weems entered the courtroom in ankle shackles, handcuffs and wearing a lime-green shirt and pants from the Claiborne County jail, where he has been housed in recent weeks.
He appeared fatigued but alert. As he entered, Weems nodded to about 10 relatives and supporters in the courtroom for the sentencing hearing.
The victim and his mother sat in another section of the courtroom. They offered no statement before Weems' sentencing.
Prior to sentencing, copies of a statement written by Weems were given to the judge and the victim, but not read in open court. Greer then ordered the statement sealed.
Weems and his lawyer, James T. Bowman, had no other comment before sentencing.
Weems has been in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service since his arrest. He had been housed in a county jail in Georgia before being moved to Claiborne County several weeks ago, Bowman said.
Bowman requested that Weems serve his federal time in a prison close to Greene County.
Greer said he would recommend that Weems be sent to a federal facility in Butner, N.C. Bowman expressed concern for his client's safety in a county jail setting.
Weems, a farmer and a lifelong resident of the Lost Mountain community, held leadership roles at various times over the years in community civic and school-related organizations.
His criminal acts were discovered in July 2011 by the Greene County Sheriff's Office when a 17-year-old "reported engaging in sexual intercourse with prostitutes at the defendant's home, which acts were recorded by the defendant," according to the court documents.
"Weems used the video and camera functions on cellular telephones to record images of minors engaged in sexually explicit poses and of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct with adults," an earlier news release said.
Weems also possessed sexually explicit photographs of a minor relative "and had surreptitiously video-recorded the relative," a sentencing memorandum said.
The allegations were confirmed by other adults engaged in the offenses involving the minor relative. The adults said they were misled by Weems about the minor's age, prosecutors said.
"Notably, at the age of 68, a 15-year sentence, even with credit for good behavior, will result in (the) defendant's incarceration into his 80s," the sentencing memorandum said.
Weems' sentencing reflects the serious nature of the offense and provides "just punishment," the court document said.
A 'HORRIBLE' CRIME
"(The) defendant's crime was horrible, resulting in what is almost certainly a lifelong scar upon the emotional health of the two minor victims.
"The crime is unlike most child pornography offenses that come before the court, in that the offense involves a hands-on offense," the memorandum said.
The indictment was the result of an ongoing investigation by the Greene County Sheriff's Department and the FBI.
Weems was taken into custody in September 2011 and denied bond at a detention hearing in October.
At that hearing, he testified on his own behalf and denied having sex with a juvenile.
An FBI agent also testified about pornographic images stored in two cell phones seized from Weems after his arrest.
Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Gregory Bowman, who prosecuted the case, played two recordings in court.
The first was of Weems testifying during an order-of-protection hearing in July 2011, where he admitted paying prostitutes to have sex with a teenager while he photographed the acts.
The second was an explicit taped telephone conversation of Weems discussing the sex acts with one of the prostitutes while she was being held on unrelated charges in the Washington County jail.
The case against Weems was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood (PSC), a Department of Justice initiative launched in 2006 that aims to combat the proliferation of technology-facilitated sexual exploitation crimes against children.
For more information about the project, visit http://www.ProjectSafeChildhood.gov