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State v. Beckham

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Nashville

October 22, 2019

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
NICHOLAS TYLER BECKHAM

          Assigned on Briefs October 16, 2019

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Cheatham County No. 18134 Larry J. Wallace, Judge.

         The Cheatham County Grand Jury indicted Nicholas Tyler Beckham, Defendant, on twenty-three counts of aggravated sexual exploitation of a minor. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Defendant pled guilty to counts one through five, with an agreed sentence of five years on each count, counts one through four to be served consecutively, with count five to run concurrently to count four, for an effective sentence of twenty years at thirty percent, with the manner of service to be determined by the court. The remainder of the counts were dismissed. Following a sentencing hearing, the trial court ordered Defendant to serve his sentence in the Tennessee Department of Correction. On appeal, Defendant claims the trial court abused its discretion when it denied alternative sentencing for Defendant. After a thorough review of the record and applicable case law, we affirm the judgments of the trial court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgments of the Circuit Court Affirmed

          William B. Lockhart, III, District Public Defender, and Matthew T. Mitchell, Assistant District Public Defender, Ashland City, Tennessee, for the appellant, Nicholas Tyler Beckham.

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Ruth Anne Thompson, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Ray Crouch, District Attorney General; and Margaret F. Sagi and David Wyatt, Assistant District Attorneys General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

          Robert L. Holloway, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and Robert H. Montgomery, Jr., JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          ROBERT L. HOLLOWAY, JR., JUDGE.

         Sentencing Hearing

         Teresa Geas testified that she was employed with the Tennessee Department of Correction Board of Probation and Parole and that she prepared a presentence report for Defendant. The report provided no information asserted by the parties relating to mitigating factors or enhancement factors. Ms. Geas stated that she received the State's enhancement factors after she had prepared her presentence report.. On cross- examination, Ms. Geas testified that Defendant was eighteen years old at the time of the offenses and that, based on his risk assessment, Defendant had a moderate risk of re-offending. Ms. Geas agreed that she did not know why Defendant was placed in the moderate category when all but one of the risk assessment sub-categories presented as low risk. On redirect examination, Ms. Geas stated that the risk assessment did not take into consideration Defendant's possible depression, pedophilia, or access to small children.

         Detective Timothy Palchak testified as an expert in the investigation of child exploitation. Detective Palchak said he was a member of the FBI's Child Exploitation Task Force at the Washington, D.C. Field Office. He stated that he began specialized law enforcement training in the year 2000 when he began working with the FBI's child abuse unit.

         Detective Palchak testified that, while working as an undercover task force officer, he came into contact with Defendant online. Defendant saw Detective Palchak's posts online, on a mobile application called "KiK," in group forums about pedophilia and incest. Defendant contacted Detective Palchak online using Defendant's KiK screen name "abbissupergirl." Defendant told Detective Palchak that he was an eighteen-year-old male who lived in Indiana and that he liked to "play with [his] younger sisters[.]" Defendant told Detective Palchak that he "do[es] anal" with his five-year-old sister.

         Defendant asked Detective Palchak if he would like to see pictures, and Detective Palchak answered affirmatively. Defendant sent Detective Palchak three pictures via KiK, as detailed in the Incident Report:[1]

1. An image of a nude prepubescent female child with her legs spread exposing her bare vagina. Defendant told Detective Palchak that this picture was of an eight-year-old girl.
2. An image of a nude prepubescent female with a penis inserted into the child's anus. Defendant told Detective Palchak that this picture was of a five-year-old girl.
3. An image of a nude prepubescent female from the vagina down to her anus, legs spread, with a penis inserted into the child's anus.

         Detective Palchak then gave Defendant his undercover cell phone number, and Defendant contacted Detective Palchak via text message. Defendant sent eleven additional pictures to Detective Palchak's undercover cell phone, as detailed in the Incident Report:

1. An image of a prepubescent child lying on a burgundy sheet with her legs spread exposing her bare vagina. An erect penis is near the child's vagina but not touching it. The image focuses on the child's vagina, and no face is visible.
2. An image depicting a prepubescent child spreading her bare vagina open.
3. An image of a prepubescent child on all fours exposing her bare buttocks and vagina.
4. An image of a prepubescent child spreading her legs open and exposing her bare vagina. The image is taken from the waist down.
5. An image of a female child wearing a multi-colored shirt and no panties. The child's hand and fingers are on her bare vagina.
6. The same child as the previous (photo 5). The child is touching her bare vagina with her fingers, and a penis ...

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