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Man pleads guilty to child porn charges

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Dominic Barrette, right, is sworn in during his hearing in Houghton County Circuit Court Monday.

HOUGHTON — A Hancock man pleaded guilty to charges related to downloading child pornography in Houghton County Circuit Court Monday.

Dominic Barrette, 21, was charged with one count of child sexually abusive material-aggravated possession, and one count of using a computer to commit a crime.

In exchange for his guilty plea, 18 other counts were dismissed: eight each of both charges, plus one count of child sexually abusive material-possession.

The child sexually abusive material-aggravated possession carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, while the computer charge is punishable by up to seven.

The latter charge, filed by his predecessor, was for using a computer to commit a crime of four years or more but less than 10 years, Prosecutor Dan Helmer said. Because the maximum sentence is 10 years, it should have been the next tier up; however, Helmer had agreed not to amend the charge.

Under the plea agreement, the minimum sentencing guideline range will be 10 to 23 months. The agreement also stipulates the sentences will not be consecutive.

Barrette was arrested in August after an investigation by the Michigan State Police Computer Crimes Unit, Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force. The investigation was prompted by the discovery that Barrette was viewing the material on the internet, the MSP said in August. Digital evidence was seized in a search of Barrette’s residence.

Barrette said Monday he had purchased a link to a packet of files online, which had included material involving prepubescent children. He had accessed the material between Feb. 21 and Aug. 14, he said.

Barrette’s attorney, David Gemignani, said he planned to seek a sentencing under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act. That would defer a conviction pending successful completion of a probation period. If that happens, the case would be dismissed.

Barrette also agreed to a waiver of disqualification. Judge Brittany Bulleit had reviewed the search warrant in the case while she was still serving as county prosecutor, although no charges were filed until months after she was sworn in as judge.

“It’s quite commonplace in cases like this where prosecutors will review a warrant prior to any search being done and then the investigation continues,” she said. “That’s likely what happened. I don’t recall the specific warrant and I don’t recall any conversations with officers.”

Gemignani and Barrette said they had no objection to Bulleit staying on.

The original plea deadline had been in November. Helmer had requested the date be postponed because of the turnover in the office; he was not formally sworn in until mid-November. Earlier this month, the case was moved from the January trial docket to April’s.

Barrette’s bond was revoked and he was remanded to custody. Sentencing will take place within 30 to 45 days.

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