- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 26, 2010

BALTIMORE | A man accused of sexually abusing children and making videos of the abuse with the help of his fiancee pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday and will receive a sentence of at least 50 years.

U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein described the case as “bizarre” and “extreme” even in the realm of child pornography and said the sentence for John F. Nicklas IV was unusually long for a first-time offender, but appropriate.

According to a graphic statement of facts that was read in court, Nicklas and his fiancee, Shannon L. Honea, made videos of Nicklas abusing a 1-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl and videos of prepubescent girls undressing. Honea has pleaded not guilty to similar charges, but her attorney, Harry L. Trainor, said he is negotiating with prosecutors.

The evidence against Nicklas included a note to Honea in which he explained that he wanted to have daughters with her so he could sexually abuse them starting when they were 1 year old, court documents show.

Rosenstein said he had never heard of a defendant plotting to have children so he could abuse them, and he could only remember one other child pornography case in which his office secured such a long sentence.

“This case is certainly an extreme end of the spectrum,” Rosenstein said. “We think it’s an appropriate result. It’s going to keep the defendant behind bars and off the streets for most of his life, potentially for all of his life, and it’s going to ensure that he’s not going to be having children or abusing children.”

Nicklas, 35, appeared calm in court, speaking quickly in a high-pitched, raspy voice as U.S. District Judge William M. Nickerson questioned him about the the plea.

“I did it. I’m guilty,” he said at one point.

Nicklas pleaded guilty to two counts of coercing a minor to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purposes of producing child pornography. The maximum sentence for each count is 30 years. The plea deal calls for Nicklas to receive a sentence of at least 50 and up to 60 years. Sentencing was set for Jan. 27.

Gary S. Bernstein, Nicklas’ attorney, said his client was sorry for his actions and looked forward to receiving treatment in prison.

“He’s been remorseful about it. He understands that he’s got a serious illness that needs to be addressed,” Bernstein said. “He’s very accepting as to how bad he harmed these kids.”

If Nickerson sentences Nicklas to less than 50 years, a separate agreement in Baltimore County calls for Nicklas to receive an additional sentence that would bring his total time served back up to 50 years. Nicklas and Honea lived in Middle River, a working-class suburb east of Baltimore, and were arrested in July 2009.

Federal and state prosecutors in Georgia also agreed to drop charges against Nicklas provided that he receives at least a 50-year sentence, according to the plea. Some of the girls Nicklas abused were from out of state, prosecutors said.


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