A previously registered sex offender will spend up to six more years in a state penitentiary after pleading guilty to sending and receiving child pornography images on his cell phone.
Lawrence County Common Pleas Judge John W. Hodge on Thursday sentenced Stephen A. Dayton, 33, of Water Street, Wampum, to 2 1/2 to six years in a state correctional institution and ordered him to comply with lifetime registration under the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act.
Dayton pled guilty March 3 to one count of child pornography. He had been facing a total of 56 charges, 55 of which were dropped as a result of the plea agreement. Upon his release from state prison he is required to serve one year of probation.
The charges against Dayton had been filed in October 2019 by the Lawrence County District Attorney's office. At that time, he was in the Butler County jail on related charges filed by Middlesex Township police, after a teen had reported that her phone had been hacked and that Dayton had sent photos of her to her number, unsolicited, according to court papers.
A Lawrence County adult probation officer filed a complaint Aug. 24 last year with the district attorney's office, saying she had possession of Dayton's cell phone that contained images of child pornography. The officer reported that Dayton told her he had images of minor girls on his phone and that he had been soliciting sexual favors and images from them, according to a criminal complaint.
The officer, who viewed the images, reported that the girls in the pictures were between 11 and 14 years old and were trying to to converse with Dayton, the papers say. Dayton told two investigators that he had images of females on his phone and that the phone was at his address in Wampum.
Detectives said Dayton told them that he is not allowed to have internet access because of a previous Megan's Law conviction for child pornography, and that he recently got a new phone and uploaded images from his previous phone to the one that the detectives confiscated, the complaint states.
The detectives in a subsequent search of Dayton's home seized 19 electronic items. The New Castle police performed a forensic extraction of the equipment, and found multiple images of child pornography on them, the complaint states. It reported that Dayton had used multiple social media accounts to obtain the pictures of minor females and used photographs of a teenage male to contact the girls, and he used false names to get them to send him pornographic images and videos of them engaging in prohibited acts.
The paperwork noted that he is a registered sex offender as the result of a conviction on Feb. 7, 2014, in Greene County, involving similar circumstances.
Dayton had been moved to the Mercer County jail since his arrest, and he was transported Thursday to New Castle for his sentencing. He was represented in court by assistant public defender Daniel Soom.
Assistant district attorney Jonathan W. Miller prosecuted the case.