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A federal judge's sense of fairness clashed Friday with the rigid requirements of federal law as he debated how to sentence a man who faced a mandatory minimum sentence for actions that would have been legal but for the "technical" twist of filming them. Standing before Chief U. District Judge Brian Miller was Terry Harmon, 64, of Little Rock, who in September admitted having sex on three occasions with a year-old girl he regularly picked up a block from Central High School after she got out for the day.

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It is legal in Arkansas for anyone older than 16 to have consensual sex with someone older. But Harmon violated federal law when he photographed and made videos of their encounters because the girl was younger than 18 and federal law considers anyone younger than 18 a minor who is too immature to give consent.

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Filming someone younger than 18 who is involved in sexually explicit behavior constitutes production of child pornography under federal law, which is punishable by a minimum of 15 years in federal prison. Disseminating the videos constitutes distribution of child pornography, which carries a mandatory five-year penalty. As with all federal sentences, parole isn't available. Harmon pleaded guilty in September to a charge of distributing child pornography in exchange for prosecutors dropping the steeper production charge. However, federal judges also must consider penalty ranges recommended by federal sentencing guidelines.

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The guidelines determine a range based on a combination of the offender's total of "points" combined with his criminal history score. Judges don't have to follow the guidelines but must justify any departures in writing for review by appellate judges.

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Harmon's range increased ificantly when points were added because the videos showed sadistic or masochistic conduct and because he distributed the child pornography to a minor -- even if it was only the girl herself. His guideline range, which also took into drug convictions, left him facing months, or Miller said that while he found Harmon's actions "creepy," he couldn't see "giving him a year sentence, essentially a life sentence, for taking a picture or a video. Noting that Harmon didn't give the videos or photographs to anyone but the girl, the judge said, "I can't go there.

Defense attorney Grant Ballard of Little Rock argued that Harmon wasn't the type of offender that Congress had in mind when it created the sentencing scheme that left a year-old man facing 20 years in prison for having consensual sex with a girl who, at the time, was two months shy of turning Despite having pleaded guilty to -pornography charge, Ballard said, "Mr. Harmon is not a man who is into little children. Assistant U. Attorney Kristin Bryant acknowledged that the guidelines range turned out to be much steeper than she had anticipated, but reminded the judge that she had dropped the production charge, which would have required a minimum sentence of 15 years.

Harmon was involved in creepy behavior," he said.

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In hearings, prosecutors acknowledged that the girl, who is now 18, claimed to be 18 in notices she posted in an online forum seeking "sugar daddies and sugar babies. The girl lived with her parents, and the case came to the FBI's attention after the girl's mother found pictures of "child prostitution" on her phone. The videos included images of the girl suspended by Harmon's bedroom ceiling by a chain as he slapped her, as well as images of her arms and legs bound by handcuffs, and images of her wearing a dog collar and performing sexual acts on Harmon.

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Print Headline: Filming sex acts with teen earns Little Rock man 8 years; judge notes 'creepy behavior,' but says case needed closer look. Filming sex acts with teen earns Little Rock man 8 years; judge notes 'creepy behavior,' but says case needed closer look by Linda Satter March 30, at a. Noting Harmon's age, Miller said that could be a life sentence for him. Ultimately, Miller imposed an eight-year sentence.

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