The former owner of an iconic local ice cream shop is required to register as a sex offender but will not serve prison time after he pleaded guilty to two felony counts of possession of child pornography.
John Cassin, 75, of Whiteland, was sentenced Monday on two counts of possession of child pornography, both Level 5 felonies. Both counts will be served concurrently.
Circuit Court Judge Andrew Roesener accepted the plea agreement which called for an open sentencing component with a cap of executed time at two years, according to a news release from the Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office.
Roesener decided to sentence Cassin to three years, including one year on home detention as a condition of probation, followed by two additional years of active probation. Cassin will be required to register as a sex offender for life and is subject to the special conditions of a sex or violent offender, the news release said.
A Level 5 felony has a sentencing range of one to six years in prison, with a presumptive sentence of three years and a fine of up to $10,000, the news release said.
The prosecutor’s office sought a prison sentence for Cassin, arguing that this was a continuing pattern of behavior, and despite the defendant’s lack of criminal history, the nature of the crime coupled with the extreme young age of the victims necessitated a prison sentence.
“While we argued for prison time for this offense, there is no question that the defendant’s lack of criminal history and age were strong mitigating circumstance in the court’s ultimate decision,” Johnson County Prosecutor Joe Villanueva said in the news release. “We are pleased that Cassin did receive some form of an executed sentence and will spend the rest of his life on the sex offender registry.”
Cassin, a former owner of Mrs. Curl, a well-known ice cream shop in the heart of downtown Greenwood, was arrested and charged in April 2019. He has since stepped down from his role at the shop.
A cyber tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children led to an investigation by Greenwood police that began in October 2018, according to court documents.
The national center alerts law enforcement to reports of sexual exploitation of children on the Internet, court documents said.
Police searched Cassin’s home, including all of his computers and mobile devices, last March for traces of child pornography, according to court documents.
Investigators interviewed Cassin at that time, court documents said.
He told police he "just clicks on stuff" and might have accidentally uploaded something. When an investigator showed him the photo they received as part of the tip, Cassin said he had seen the image before and knew the child was under the age of 18.
He told police he used the desktop computer in his office to read the news and look at porn, court documents said. He denied downloading or storing any photos on the computer, police said.
Cassin said investigators would likely find a history of child porn activity dating back to when he bought the computer in May 2018, and said the computer he owned before that had three to four years worth of child porn activity on it, according to court documents.
He told police he had looked at pornography involving children as young as babies, including images of naked babies engaging in sexual activity, court documents said.
When asked about his internet search history, Cassin said he used specific search terms to locate the child pornography, police said.
He told police he never engaged in sexual activity with a minor, but was scared he would if he didn’t stop, according to court documents. Cassin said he stopped looking at child pornography last February, court documents said.
However, a forensic examination of Cassin’s computer revealed that he viewed child pornography on Feb. 25, Feb. 26 and March 1, 2019.
Investigators also found numerous child pornography images on a Mrs. Curl user account, according to court documents.