A federal judge on Tuesday apologized to the family of a Pikesville man before sentencing him to a minimum five years in prison for possessing and distributing child pornography.
U.S. District Court Judge Marvin J. Garbis said he thought Jonathan J. Lewin deserved a lesser sentence but that he couldn't be more lenient because of guidelines he must follow. The judge also expressed sympathy for the children whose images were used.
Lewin, 46, had pleaded guilty to charges of possessing and distributing child pornography.
"The situation is heart-wrenching, of course," Garbis said.
He noted that Lewin had no prior criminal history and that he did not intend to distribute images, but by downloading them, he made them available to other users through a peer-to-peer file sharing network.
Five years, he said, is "not a trivial sentence," and would be felt for a long time by Lewin and his family. Lewin also must register as a sex offender. His prison sentence will be followed by 12 years of supervised release.
"The judge indicated that he had no choice" but to impose the minimum sentence, said Lewin's attorney, Isaac Klein, after the hearing. "Had his hands not been tied, he'd have imposed a lesser sentence,"
While there isn't a minimum sentence for possessing child pornography, Klein said the maximum sentence for distribution is 20 years.
Prosecutor Lauren Perry had argued for an eight-year sentence because of the thousands of images that were downloaded, and she argued that Lewin posed a greater risk for recidivism because Lewin also engaged in voyeurism. She described a number of non-pornographic images Lewin took with his camera of minor girls in public and then kept stored on his computer, which were not illegal but were a concern.
Klein argued that his client was affected by taking Adderall and only started this behavior when he was prescribed the drug by a doctor.
At the hearing, Lewin's father, wife, rabbi and a family friend spoke on his behalf. The friend had testified that Lewin's demeanor changed while he was on the drug.
Lewin's father, Fred Lewin, a retired rabbi, said his son never had caused trouble.
"This is an aberration. … This is not my son," he said. He spoke about how devastating a prison sentence will be for the family that has already suffered. Lewin said his 13-year-old grandson had written to the president, "please don't take my daddy."
Shmuel Kaplan, a rabbi who has known Lewin since he was a child and officiated his wedding, said he was "heartbroken," to learn of the charges and said it was out of character.
"It's not Jonathan," Kaplan said. While he said there must be justice for the victims, he said, "there had to be an element of mercy in judgment as well."
Lewin mostly kept his head down.
"I want to apologize for my conduct. I understand the seriousness of it," Lewin told the judge. He told Garbis he took responsibility for the charges and asked for his compassion.
"I beg everybody for their forgiveness," Lewin said.