Bourbon County

Bourbon County man pleads guilty to possessing photos of exploited children engaging in sex acts

Joe S. Watkins
Joe S. Watkins Bourbon County Detention Center

PARIS — A Bourbon County man pleaded guilty Thursday to multiple charges of possessing photos of exploited children engaging in sex acts.

Joe S. Watkins Jr., 64, entered the plea on the condition that he can withdraw it if an appellate court reverses a decision by Circuit Judge Rob Johnson. Jerry Anderson, defense attorney for Watkins, argues that Johnson should have suppressed evidence that was obtained by Paris police during their investigation of the case.

Watkins pleaded guilty to 35 counts of possession of matter portraying a minor in a sexual performance. A 2010 indictment contained 25 counts, and a 2011 indictment contained 10 counts.

Johnson scheduled sentencing for Oct. 9. If Johnson sentences Watkins to more than 20 years in prison, the appeal will be heard by the Kentucky Supreme Court. If the sentence is less than 20 years, the appeal will be heard by the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

Commonwealth's Attorney Gordie Shaw made no recommendation on sentencing.

Watkins has already served time in jail on charges of trafficking in a controlled substance and tampering with evidence. He was paroled April 1 but has been held in the Bourbon County jail pending disposition of other charges.

Watkins is scheduled to go on trial in November on a charge of first-degree rape.

In May, Watkins wrote a letter to Johnson asking for the return of two computers that were seized by police in the investigation. Watkins said they contained photos and videos of his late wife, as well as business documents.

Watkins once owned the Chicken Ranch Restaurant and New Leaf Florist on Main Street in Paris. Both businesses closed.

"Please do not destroy all I have left to remember my wife and family by," Watkins wrote.

If the judge wrote a response, it is not in the court file.

Watkins remains in the Bourbon County jail in lieu of a $105,000 cash bond.