A former deputy judge-executive of Magoffin County was sentenced Monday to 20 years in federal prison for soliciting sex from a minor and collecting more than 600 images of child pornography on his office computer.
"I know I need help. I'll accept whatever your honor decides," Walter E. Hardin, 29, told U.S. District Judge Joseph Hood during his sentencing hearing at the courthouse in Lexington.
Hardin suffers from bipolar disorder, which is one reason his behavior had spiraled out of control, said his attorney, Burl McCoy.
Hardin was arrested in October by a Kentucky State Police detective who had pretended to be a 14-year-old girl in online chats with Hardin. Later, more than 600 photographs and 14 videos depicting children having sex were found on Hardin's computer in the Magoffin County Courthouse.
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The judge said Hardin's behavior was repugnant.
"Judgment in this case is particularly difficult because you were entrusted by Magoffin County with a position of responsibility," Hood told Hardin.
He said Hardin has "brought great shame" on his community.
At least a dozen relatives and friends were in the courtroom, including his father, Magoffin Judge-Executive Charles Hardin.
"Obviously we're devastated and are praying for my son," the elder Hardin said after the sentencing.
McCoy told the judge that Hardin's network of support would help him overcome his problems and should be considered in sentencing. At least 10 residents, including some public officials, wrote letters asking the judge for leniency and consideration for Hardin's contributions to the county.
Hood said prosecutors' reports indicated that Hardin had told his girlfriend that he fantasized about having sex with his own children, if he had any, and that Hardin abused cocaine, LSD, meth, oxycodone and heroin while he was working at the courthouse.
"The only good thing I can see about this whole deal is that you're young. With proper treatment, you may be able to have a productive life," Hood said.
The judge decided against the 171/2-year sentence that was recommended in the plea agreement. Hardin will serve 20 years in federal prison, followed by lifetime supervised release in which he would report to probation officers and not have contact with children or any pornography, and register as a sex offender. He was ordered to receive treatment for drug and sex addictions.
Because the sentence is longer than the minimum 10 years, he can appeal. McCoy said he didn't know whether he would file an appeal.
Hood also said he hoped county officials would take steps to ensure that county computers are secure and that this never happens again on county grounds. Charles Hardin, the judge-executive, didn't answer the Herald-Leader's questions about those statements.
A hearing to consider restitution for a known victim in pictures found on Hardin's computer is set for Nov. 2.