MEDINA — A Medina County judge on Tuesday sentenced a 26-year-old Marine Corps veteran to five years in prison for sharing child pornography.
Nicholas Sutherland, of Sharon Township, pleaded no contest in May to six counts of illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material and three counts of pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor.
Sutherland faced up to eight or more years in prison.
His court-appointed attorney, Michael Ash, said Sutherland served in the Middle East, where he was in a vehicle that was destroyed by insurgents.
“Mr. Sutherland went through a lot of trauma while serving with the Marine Corps in the Middle East,” Ash told the judge, adding that Sutherland received treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
Ash asked the judge to give Sutherland probation, even though Ohio law suggests prison time for the charges.
Sutherland’s ex-wife, Sarah Maximovich, told the court Sutherland’s activities with child pornography began long before his time in the Middle East.
“We got married when we were 18,” said Maximovich, of Lakewood, “and I began finding black-and-white pictures of child pornography shortly afterward.”
She said she found the pictures in a closet when he was away on duty and showed them to Sutherland’s parents. She said the man’s parents told her it was a “phase,” and then destroyed the pictures.
“I was very naive, and I was scared,” she said. “If I could go back, I would immediately turn him in.”
In the years that followed, she said she began to suspect he was sexually abusing their daughter and reached out to police in Cuyahoga and Medina counties.
Medina County Assistant Prosecutor Scott Salisbury said Sutherland was investigated by Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services, but the accusations couldn’t be substantiated. He said in court that charges may be brought against Sutherland as a result of additional investigations.
Medina County Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier said he only considered Maximovich’s statements about child pornography in sentencing Sutherland.
“These images represent children who are real people and who were sexually exploited,” Collier said of the images, adding that Sutherland showed no remorse and refused to take responsibility for his actions.
In addition to prison time, Collier labeled Sutherland a Tier II sex offender, meaning he must register with his local sheriff’s office every six months for 25 years after his release from prison.
Sutherland’s ex-wife said she wanted him to get more prison time than five years.
“It’s not what I wanted,” Maximovich said, “but it’s better than nothing.”