GREEN RIVER — A Rock Springs man will spend the next 16 years in the Wyoming State Penitentiary after pleading no contest to 22 counts of sexual exploitation of a child in Third District Court today.
The Sweetwater County Attorney’s Office sought a life prison sentence after an extensive investigation by local and state law enforcement agencies revealed Gehring had more than 5,000 images of child pornography on his digital devices. The images were downloaded on Gehring’s devices between February 2019 and May 2020.
Lead DCI Agent Joel Greene testified during the change of plea and sentence hearing today that the images originated from specific websites in Russia.
Greene told the court that DCI’s first search warrant uncovered 2,300 images in Gehring’s email. A second warrant on his phone found another 3,000 images, many depicting children in bondage positions between the ages of 2-9.
Greene added during cross examination that it’s very difficult for DCI to prevent these images from coming into America from other countries.
Chief Deputy County Attorney Teresa Thybo argued for a longer sentence primarily because of the volume, graphic nature, and Gehring’s repetitive use of the pornographic material.
“It’s an event of child sexual abuse captured on video or photograph, so in this case alone there were thousands of children who were victimized. The reason this continues to happen is because there continues to be a demand for it. If there weren’t so many people out there downloading it, there’d be no reason to create it.”
– Sweetwater County Chief Deputy Attorney Teresa Thybo
She also said research shows that people’s judgment becomes skewed about what is acceptable with children the more they view this type of material. Thybo added this is particularly concerning in Gehring’s case because he has three minor children at home.
Gehring’s attorney Rick Helson said there has never been “a hint or suspicion” of his client acting out against his own children. He also said his client has a history of mental illness and is currently taking three different prescriptions to address those issues.
He agreed there should be a stigma on people who use child pornography, and said the World Health Organization views pornography as a diagnosable condition. Helson asked Judge Suzannah Robinson for no more than 3-5 years for each count and that the sentences run concurrently.
Initially, Gehring told the court he doubted the validity of the DCI investigation. He said agents “couldn’t even get my birthdate right”, let alone figure out computer coding to find the images. He also asked for leniency because he recognized he had a problem and knows he needs help.
“As terrified as I was on the day they came and arrested me, I was also grateful,” Gehring said.
However, Robinson said she didn’t believe probation was appropriate in Gehring’s case. She described one extremely graphic photo found in his possession of a 7-year-old girl bound and being tortured.
Gehring bent over and covered his ears while Robinson read the evidence, but she immediately ordered him to sit up and listen.
“Remove your hands from your ears. You are going to listen to this.”
– Third District Court Judge Suzannah Robinson to James Gehring
She agreed with Helson that Gehring needs rehabilitation for his mental and sexual afflictions, and hoped that he finds help in prison. She also said the court had to assume Gehring got enjoyment from of the material or he wouldn’t have kept watching it.
Robinson told Gehring she would not impose a life sentence because he had not directly victimized any of the children. Instead, she imposed consecutive 8-10 year sentences for the first two counts. The remaining 20 counts will run concurrent with Count I for a minimum sentence of 16 years. Counts 23 and 24 were dismissed.
Gehring was also ordered to pay $3,410 in fines and restitution. He was remanded to the Wyoming State Penitentiary following the hearing.