Man receives 2-10 years home confinement for child pornography

MORGANTOWN — A man who pleaded guilty to possession of material of minors in sexually explicit conduct will serve his sentence on home confinement.

Monongalia County Circuit Judge Phillip Gaujot delivered the sentence to David Berentsen, 74, at Wednesday’s sentencing hearing. Berentsen will be allowed to go to church during his two to 10 years of home confinement and was ordered to continue therapy for the duration of his sentence. Berentsen cannot be left alone at church. Gaujot also ordered five years of extended supervision and prohibited Berentsen from viewing any kind of pornography on computers. The computer containing the pornography was ordered forfeited, but other electronic devices sized including an iPad were not.

“Your honor, I apologize to the court, the people of Morgantown, my family and friends for the wrong I committed,” Berentsen said. He said he had a disease which became overwhelming and he hoped with continued therapy he could recover fully.

About a dozen people, including his wife and both his daughters filled the benches behind Berentsen in support. Frank Williams, the father-in-law of Berentsen’s daughter, testified before the court; he said none of them would be there if they didn’t believe Berentsen was not a danger to the community.

Jason Wingfield, Berentsen’s attorney, asked Williams how he met Berentsen and about his relationship with him. He said he originally met Berentsen in 1997 and said he was part of the family. Williams’ son and one of Berentsen’s daughters are married. Williams described Berentsen as a kind and gentle man from whom he’d never seen an angry outburst.

He said he had “no reservations” about Berentsen being around their grandchildren.

“[It] would be a horrible, unimaginable, occurrence for David and our family,” Williams said of sending Berentsen to prison, though he acknowledged a crime had taken place and understood punishment was needed.

Wingfield asked the court for an alternative sentence and pointed to Berentsen’s 74 years without a criminal record, the half dozen letters of recommendation the court had received and his accepting responsibility for the crime and seeking treatment immediately as reasons why he would be a good candidate. Berentsen was found to be the lowest risk of re-offending and in a maintenance phase, according to a doctor, Wingfield said.

He also pointed out Berentsen’s support system.

“We packed half the court today,” he said.

Stephen Fitz, representing the Monongalia County Prosecutor’s office, said this was a serious case and a lot of people had misconceptions about this type of case.

He said even though he didn’t have any victim’s in the courtroom, that didn’t mean there weren’t any in this case and it didn’t diminish the seriousness of the case. The type of images Berentsen had supported a “horrendous” worldwide industry that caused children to be exploited. There were 29 known child victims in this case, he said.

Fitz said it was generally mandated, by morality, not law, to send offenders in this type of case to prison, but in this instance, due to Berentsen’s age and lack of criminal history, the state did not oppose home confinement. He asked Berentsen be ordered to continue treatment, given five years extended supervision and not be allowed to use computers.

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