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Former Warden City Council member gets 10 years in prison for child pornography

UPDATED: Wed., June 12, 2019

A federal judge on Wednesday sentenced a former substitute teacher, Boy Scout troop leader and Warden City Council member to 10 years in prison after he previously pleaded guilty to receiving child pornography.

Michael S. Leavitt, 54, told U.S. Circuit Court Judge Thomas Rice that he let his family and community down after he got addicted to pornography. The case began in October 2017 when a 9-year-old student told school officials she caught Leavitt placing his iPhone underneath her skirt and recording images.

“I’d like to apologize to my mom and dad for the shame I brought our family name,” Leavitt said in court. “To my wife … I’m so very sorry for the heartache and pain I’ve caused you” and leaving you “the responsibility of raising our family without my help.”

Leavitt, who was a volunteer firefighter and served as a leader in the local ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said he first viewed pornography as a teenager.

“I had no idea it would become an addiction,” he said. “I was always seeking out more and disgusting and shocking things.”

The girl’s report led to a state and federal investigation where agents eventually obtained search warrants that found images supporting the girl’s claim. They also found hundreds of images of other children, including some taken at school events in Warden, a small town about 16 miles southwest of Moses Lake.

“Within his digital devices, (Leavitt) knowingly received and possessed more than 600 images that meet the federal definition of child pornography,” Assistant U.S. Attorney David Herzog wrote in court records. Leavitt “also possessed numerous images of students at Warden Elementary and other students. In an interview with law enforcement, (Leavitt) acknowledged that he had taken pictures of students without their knowledge.”

As for the day the girl caught him taking pictures under her skirt, Leavitt said he had ingested edible marijuana and pain pills before he was called in to help teach.

“I want to make the changes that make me a better man,” Leavitt told Rice. “I don’t want to do anything that will keep me away from my family again. I’m so sorry for all the pain and suffering I caused that day.”

Several members of Leavitt’s family, including his parents, attended the sentencing. They declined comment following the hearing.

Federal public defender Matthew Campbell asked Judge Rice to sentence his client to five years in prison, which is a typical sentence for someone who received child pornography.

“Unquestionably, Michael Leavitt has done a lot of good in this community,” Campbell said. “He is a devoted family man. These are not the actions of a predator. These are the actions of someone who is trying to make his community better.”

But Rice noted that he has sentenced “hands-on” sex offenders to life in prison. While Leavitt was not charged with physically assaulting his victims, “You were physically in the presence of children you were taking images of,” Rice told Leavitt. “You were this close to a life sentence.”

The judge followed the recommendation of prosecutors and sentenced Leavitt to 10 years in federal prison with 10 years of supervised release that carries several pages of restrictions he must follow.

Rice also ordered Leavitt to pay $3,000 in restitution to one of the victims, a girl who was raped on camera.

“The pornography of (the girl) being raped continues to be on the internet,” Rice said. “Every time a suspect comes to court, she gets notified that another offender has victimized her. Her life will never be the same. This is one of hundreds and thousands of children who have been victimized. It’s devastating.”

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