A former high school teacher and coach who was sentenced to 30 years for child pornography reached out to former students he 'victimized' to be character witnesses, prosecutor alleges
- Former teacher Jeffrey Pierce was sentenced to 30 years in prison for producing child pornography.
- The prosecution said Pierce reached out to some of his alleged victims for letters of support prior to sentencing.
A former Kansas teacher who was sentenced to 30 years in prison for child pornography reached out to some of his alleged victims to be his character witnesses, a prosecuting attorney said.
Jeffrey D. Pierce, a 42-year-old former high school teacher and basketball coach in Topeka, was sentenced to prison in September after he "impersonated a minor female on various social media platforms" to get minor males to "send him images of themselves engaging in sexually explicit conduct," according to a Justice Department statement.
In a plea deal, Pierce pleaded guilty to one count of producing child pornography in exchange for having 11 other federal charges dropped, Insider previously reported.
At the September 22 sentencing hearing, federal prosecuting attorney Austin Berry said that Pierce, in an effort to get witness statements asking for a lighter sentence, reached out to some of his alleged victims for letters of support.
"Either he forgot that he victimized these boys or he's so callous that he thinks it doesn't matter," Berry said, according to the Topeka Capital-Journal.
Pierce's defense attorney, Christopher Joseph, said it was a "quotable quote" by the prosecutor but told Insider that he was not sure if it was true.
Joseph said the defense submitted about 30 letters in support of Pierce. In the process of requesting letters of support from members of the community, the defense created generic instructions for "what we look for and who we want to write letters to support" Pierce from those who "meaningfully know him," Joseph said.
"I think his family distributed those to folks, and one of those ended up in the hands of a woman who claims that her two sons were victims. Now, this was news to everybody, including the FBI and the government, because there's no forensic evidence to indicate that's true, but that's what she says," Joseph told Insider. "So Austin found that to be a fun fact, I guess, and that's what his quote was. I don't know if it's true. Maybe it is, maybe it's not."
Berry did not respond to Insider's requests for comment. A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment on his behalf.
Joseph said seven people wrote letters or spoke at the sentencing to ask the judge for a harsh sentence for Pierce. Those who wrote in support of Pierce "were talking about the rest of Jeff Pierce," Joseph said.
"When you come for sentencing, you're focused on some really horrible conduct over a period of time, but that's not everything Jeff is and what he's done. And so they talk about his attributes and his positive things in his life and really kind of fleshes out who Jeff is other than the horrible events that are presented for the judge at sentencing. The rest of the story, if you will, the rest of his life," Joseph said.
The defense asked the judge for a 20-year sentence, Joseph said. U.S. District Judge Toby Crouse gave Pierce the maximum 30-year prison sentence plus five years of supervised release, saying he felt "especially bad" for the parents of Pierce's victims, per the Capital-Journal.
Pierce appealed the sentence on two issues, including the "substantive reasonableness of the sentence," Joseph said, noting that the judge could pick a sentence between 15 and 30 years.
"It's a tough decision to make, and I don't envy the judge for it. But ultimately, my argument to the court, and really the only argument I have, is that there's a range of conduct covered. And this is not the least significant, by any measure, and it's also not the most significant," Joseph said.
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