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Hilltown Man Gets 2 to 5 years for Second Child Porn Conviction

December 15, 2016


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Megan Stricker, 215.348.6576, mkstricker@buckscounty.org

A Hilltown Township man was sentenced Monday to serve two to five years in state prison for his second child pornography conviction.

Ethan Wayne Phinney, 35, was on probation for a 2015 child pornography conviction when his county probation officer found a gaming console in Phinney’s bedroom during a December 2015 visit. The Xbox One console was connected to a cable that allowed it to access the internet in much the same way a personal computer would.

The Xbox violated the terms of Phinney’s probation, which forbade him from accessing social media. A police examination of the Xbox determined that Phinney had viewed 29 images of child pornography.

Phinney pleaded guilty on Aug. 15 to 29 counts of possession of child pornography and one count of criminal use of a communication facility.

At the time of his arrest, Phinney was living in the home of his parents in the 800 block of Middle Road, and was working in construction with his father, Wayne Phinney. The elder Phinney testified that he was not aware that there was a cable connection in his son’s bedroom, or that the Xbox could be used to access the internet.

Ethan Phinney, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, told Bucks County President Judge Jeffrey L. Finley that he is addicted to child pornography. He said he used to view adult pornography, “but as time went on I needed material that was more and more shocking.”

Phinney said that he would never pursue a child sexually or otherwise harm a child. He told Finley that he wants to undergo psychological treatment to help him overcome his addiction.

An evaluation performed for the state Sexual Offenders Assessment Board determined that Phinney is not a sexually violent predator, is not likely to act out with a child, and is unlikely to re-offend.

Still, Finley said, a person who views child pornography helps finance and encourage the sexual exploitation of children. “This is an extremely troubling case for me,” the judge said.

“Like most sexual offenders, you were sneaky,” Finley told Phinney, noting that he accessed the internet with an Xbox, a device his parents did not understand could be used for such purposes.

“Do I put you away and throw away the key? I can’t in good conscience do that,” Finley said. The judge stressed, however, that Phinney needs to be removed from the community and forced to undergo mental health treatment for his addiction.

Finley ordered that Phinney undergo sexual offender evaluation and treatment in prison, and that he receive mental health and drug and alcohol evaluations. After being paroled, he will be required to continue his treatments until no longer deemed necessary, and will only be allowed to use the internet, with supervision, to help obtain employment.

Phinney also will be required to register with police as a sexual offender for the rest of his life.

The case was investigated by Hilltown Township Police Detective Louis Bell and prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Megan Stricker.

Approved for release by Marc Furber, Deputy District Attorney.

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