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JUDGE: CHILD PORN DEFENDANT MAY VIEW EVIDENCE AGAINST HIM

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By Beth Braden

CAMPBELL COUNTY—Criminal court Judge Shayne Sexton has ruled that the state can videotape accused child rapist and pornographer Lonnie Ellison as he views the evidence against him.

Last week, public defenders Dale Potter and Bill Jones met with their client in Knoxville to review some of the evidence against him in the 82-count indictment for rape of a child and child pornography. 

While some of the evidence was simply physical computer parts and discs containing images, other evidence was digital and needed to be viewed.

“When we started to view it, before we started to view – we were asked to sit at a particular table. There was a camera on our table and the state told us the only way they were going to allow us to view the evidence against us would be if they recorded us doing so,” said public defender Bill Jones. 

The defense counsel was told that they would be recorded for safety concerns, Jones said. 

“At that time, we refused to view the evidence at all and that’s what brought us before the court today,” said Jones. 

Assistant District Attorney Scarlett Ellis said videotaping provides two benefits. “One, it is to ensure that Mr. Ellison later can’t say I didn’t see this and I didn’t see that.,” she said. “He doesn’t get to sit and watch three more days of child pornography. The next part of that is for preservation of our evidence and to ensure he’s in custody,” she said.

Public Defender Dale Potter said it was the first time he has ever experienced the opposing side wanting to make a video of a client viewing evidence. 

“If there was a security issue, we — Mr. Jones and I — would have been the person that would have been shot probably before our client was,” Potter said. 

Jones and Potter were also concerned that the videotaping could prevent them from having a confidential conversation with Ellison. 

“This was trying to obtain evidence they can use against him,” Potter said. 

“We don’t intrude on confidential communications,” countered assistant district attorney Michael Ripley. 

Judge Shayne Sexton was not convinced.

Sexton decided that the prosecution will be able to videotape Ellison and his attorneys viewing the evidence, but the video cannot include an audio recording. The state will also have to give a copy of the video to Jones and Potter.

“This seems to be a very overbearing way of allowing the defendant to prepare for trial,” Sexton said.