Oct. 21-FARMINGTON - A Wilton man pleaded guilty Thursday to two charges of possessing sexually explicit materials of children under age 12 in 2019 and 2020.
Zachary P. Davis, 20, who has been incarcerated at the Franklin County jail since his arrest March 9, entered the pleas in Farmington Unified Court. A misdemeanor charge of violating condition of release was dismissed.
Deputy District Attorney James Andrews told Justice Robert Mullen it was a fully negotiated plea. A settlement conference on the cases was held earlier this year with retired Supreme Court Justice Roland Cole, Andrews said.
Mullen sentenced Davis to five years on the 2019 charge, with all but 2 1/2 years suspended minus time served, and two years of probation. He also sentenced him to a consecutive five years, all suspended, and two years of probation.
Conditions of probation include completing sexual offender counseling and treatment to the satisfaction of his probation officer. He is prohibited from having contact with children under age 16, except for children in the family in the presence of biological parents. He is also ordered not to possess any device that can access the internet without permission of a probation officer.
Davis must also register as a sex offender for 25 years.
Davis' attorney, Walter "Woody" Hanstein, told the court that his client understood that he would receive credit for time served.
Davis is a former University of Maine at Farmington student and had lived on campus for part of 2020.
State police Detective Reid Bond investigated the 2019 and 2020 cases. He would have testified that during an interview in 2019 while a search warrant was being executed at Davis' residence in Wilton, Davis confirmed he had been viewing sexually explicit images of children. A state police analyst located images that depicted sexual exploitation of minors ranging from about 3 to 12 years old on Davis' laptop and cellphone.
Davis previously pleaded not guilty to the charge.
In the 2020 case, Davis was out on bail when Bond conducted an investigation into a Florida detective's report of Davis paying a Florida girl under age 12 for a nude photo of herself. The PayPal account was registered to Davis' student email, according to court documents. The Florida detective had requested a bail check on Davis from UMF Police Chief Brock Caton in the fall of 2020. Caton referred the case to the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit.
The investigation revealed that Davis contacted the Florida girl under the guise of a modeling request. Initially, he sent images of other children fully clothed, then some partially clothed, before he had the girl send both nude photos and videos of herself, according to the police affidavit.
Davis paid her $40, then asked for the money back or threatened to put the images on the internet. When the girl told her mother, she contacted Davis and told him to delete the images, then the mother notified a Florida county sheriff's department. Florida police accessed images through the girl's phone, according to the affidavit.
Hanstein told the court that Davis feels terrible about what he did and wishes he could take it back. His parents, who were present in the courtroom, are very supportive, Hanstein said.
"I really want to apologize to the family," Davis said, adding he is changing his ways to become a better person.
The girl's mother spoke to Davis over Zoom, telling him he really blindsided her by his actions. Her daughter is a straight-A student and very smart, she said. She had recently gotten a cellphone. She checked her daughter's phone often but it was a busy time for her and she hadn't checked as frequently.
The girl's mother said Davis befriended her daughter and slowly groomed her. Though it was over the internet, it felt like he molested her, she said. Her daughter came to her crying hysterically, she said.
"You scared her," she said, adding that he threatened to put the photos on the internet if she did not give the $40 back. Her daughter continued to cry often and blamed herself and called herself "stupid," she said. She had to tell police what happened. Her parents repeatedly told her it was not her fault. She is moving forward.
It is like he took the "innocence" from her, she said.
The girl's father said he is a man of faith. He told Davis he was praying for him, hopes he gets the help he needs and is working on forgiving him.
Davis did not have prior a criminal record.