The Sidney Sun-Telegraph - Serving proudly since 1873 as the beautiful Nebraska Panhandle's first newspaper

Two plea deals reached in child porn arrests; one suspect still awaits court

 


A Sidney Police Department investigation in September 2013 that led to the arrests of a Sidney man and two Sterling, Colo., women on suspicion of taking and sending sexually explicit photographs of young children in their care has resulted in two separate plea agreements.

Earlier this month, Brandee Christensen, 31, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted violation of visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct, a Class II felony.

The charge carries a potential maximum penalty of 50 years imprisonment, with a minimum of one year.

In exchange for her plea, three other felony counts she faced were dropped, including two counts of intentionally committing child abuse.

Christensen’s sentencing is scheduled for Wednesday, July 1 at 10 a.m. in Cheyenne District Court.

As part of her plea agreement, Christensen also agreed to testify at the trial of Kristen Gulley – the other woman arrested as part of the investigation.

The prosecutor in the Christensen’s case, Cheyenne County Attorney Paul Schaub, said he was satisfied with the agreement because of the prison sentence she is facing.

“With her pleading to the offense – it carries a maximum of 50 years imprisonment – the court can consider uncharged conduct,” he said in a phone interview. “All that and the fact Brandee Christensen would be a useful witness in the pending case against Ms. Gulley.”

Christensen is serving four years incarceration in Colorado after pleading guilty in a Logan County Court last year to sexual exploitation of a child, according to court documents.

“When somebody causes child pornography to be put into another state by their actions, that subjects them to additional liability,” Schaub said.

He added, while he doesn’t know if the images used against Christensen in both the Nebraska and Colorado cases where the same, it’s a possibility.

“And we took that into consideration when we agreed that the sentencing would run concurrent,” Schaub said.

As part of Christensen’s plea agreement in Cheyenne District Court, the state will not oppose concurrent sentencing with her Colorado imprisonment.

Christensen was arrested on Sept. 5, 2013, in Sterling after Sidney police issued a warrant for her arrest. Days before, Gulley, 30, was also taken into custody by Sterling law enforcement on a similar warrant.

Gulley faces sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of a child charges in Logan County Court in Colorado, according to court documents. A preliminary hearing in that court is scheduled for later this month.

Schaub said charges in Cheyenne County were filed against Christensen and Gulley at the same time.

Gulley will appear in Cheyenne County Court once she’s released from Colorado, he added, but when exactly that will be is unknown at this point.

“All I know for sure is that we haven’t been notified she’s available for us to pick up,” Schaub said.

Levi Hallett, of Sidney, is the man to whom Christensen and Gulley are accused of sending the sexually explicit photographs.

Hallett, 26, was initially charged in Cheyenne County for offenses related to the 2013 investigation before his case was transferred to federal court.

Last September, Hallett was charged in a three-count indictment by a federal grand jury. The charges included production, possession and receipt and distribution of child pornography.

Last month, Hallett struck a plea deal with federal prosecutors. He pleaded guilty to production of child pornography in exchange for a dismissal of the other two charges.

Hallett faces a maximum of 30 years imprisonment and supervised release for life, with a minimum of 15 years imprisonment.

Sentencing is scheduled for July 23 in a U.S. District Courtroom in Lincoln.

Schaub said Hallett’s case was transferred to federal court because he was the must culpable of the three.

“The other two played a role in assisting him in what he wanted,” the county attorney said.

One of the main interests in allowing the case to be transferred was the potential penalty, he added.

The arrest of the three in 2013 was the result of Sidney Police Department investigation prompted by tips from the public.

A search of Hallett’s Sidney apartment – after an informant reported Hallett admitted he had received nude photographs from girls aged 15, 14 and 9 on his cell phone – resulted in the seizure of his phone, according to a probable cause affidavit.

During the search of his apartment, Hallett told police he had engaged in a sexual conversation with an adult female – Gulley – in the previous months.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Hallett said he and Gulley discussed the possibility of involving a 2-year-old in their sexual activities.

Graphic photos were later discovered on Hallett’s phone of “what appears to be a toddler-aged female child.”

In additional interviews, Hallett told investigators he received the photos from Christensen and Gulley. According to police, both women later admitted to taking and sending photographs of the toddler.

Hallett confessed to possessing around 40 images of underage nude children, and to taking some of the photographs himself, according to the probable cause affidavit.

 

Reader Comments
(0)

 
 

Powered by ROAR Online Publication Software from Lions Light Corporation
© Copyright 2018