- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 22, 2008

BALTIMORE | A federal judge sentenced a repentant former state legislator Friday to a little more than three years in prison for possessing child pornography, declaring that “a reputation is easier to build than it is to repair.”

Robert A. McKee, 59, a Washington County Republican, must report to the federal Bureau of Prisons on Jan. 12 to begin the 37-month term, which will be followed by lifetime of supervised probation. U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. also ordered McKee to register as a sex offender.

The offense carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

McKee apologized to his family and community, acknowledging that he had let them down and violated their trust.

“In the eyes of the law, I committed a crime. In the eyes of God, I committed a sin,” said McKee, who was a First Christian Church trustee and executive director of the Hagerstown Big Brothers Big Sisters when the investigation was revealed Feb. 15.

He resigned the same day from Big Brothers and the General Assembly, where he had served for 13 years in the House of Delegates and was chairman of the Western Maryland delegation.

Kelly Williams, spokeswoman for Philadelphia-based Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, said in a statement: “We are aware of the news of the sentencing and applaud law enforcement’s efforts in investigating and prosecuting this case.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Bonnie S. Greenberg told the judge that during the time McKee was using child porn, he had sponsored, co-sponsored or voted for a number of child-protection bills, including the Child Protection From Predators Act this year.

“This is an individual who should have known better. He knew the law,” Ms. Greenberg said.

McKee pleaded guilty Sept. 5 to one count of possessing child pornography. In the plea agreement, he acknowledged that Washington County sheriff’s deputies who searched his home in the unincorporated community of Halfway on Jan. 31 found pictures that he had downloaded from Web sites showing known victims of child pornography, including prepubescent children.

Ms. Greenberg, who argued for a 41-month prison term, said the search was triggered by a female resident of the house who gave a deputy computer printouts of the illegal images.

The search yielded between 10 and 150 images from mail-order services and Web sites, Ms. Greenberg said. McKee had been using child pornography for at least 10 years, she said.

Ms. Greenberg acknowledged McKee’s public service and popularity, documented by numerous “character letters” to the court from supporters.

“He’s done a lot of good things. He is a very well-respected person. But this is a horrible crime,” she said.

Defense attorney Timothy F. Maloney said McKee had been in therapy since February. He said McKee had character, and except for his crime, had been “not only a model citizen but someone who has made extraordinary contributions to his community.”

McKee will remain on home detention with electronic monitoring until he reports to prison.

McKee is not married but was the legal guardian of a 16-year-old girl in 2006, according to the Hagerstown Herald-Mail. Delegate LeRoy Myers, Washington County Republican, said in February that McKee had met and adopted the girl through his work with Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

Andrew Serafini, a financial adviser from the Hagerstown area, was chosen by Washington County Republicans and approved by Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley in March to serve the remainder of McKee’s term, which ends in 2010.

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