Crime

Rock Hill business owner guilty on child porn charges

A York County jury on Wednesday found Rion Rutledge Jr. guilty on seven counts of sexual exploitation of a minor stemming from child pornography found on multiple computers and discs taken from Rutledge’s home. Rutledge was sentenced to 10 years suspended to five years on each charge, five years probation. He must register as a sex offender.
A York County jury on Wednesday found Rion Rutledge Jr. guilty on seven counts of sexual exploitation of a minor stemming from child pornography found on multiple computers and discs taken from Rutledge’s home. Rutledge was sentenced to 10 years suspended to five years on each charge, five years probation. He must register as a sex offender. tkulmala@heraldonline.com

Rion Rutledge Jr. looked ahead stoically Wednesday as a clerk read, one by one, the seven guilty verdicts a York County jury returned against him for sexual exploitation of a minor.

Jurors, after about four hours of deliberation, found Rutledge guilty of three counts of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and four counts of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. Circuit Court Judge John C. Hayes III sentenced Rutledge to 10 years in prison suspended to five years for each count, with the sentences running concurrently, and five years probation. Rutledge must also undergo mental health counseling and register as a sex offender.

Rutledge, who owns Tidy Toilets in Rock Hill, was arrested in March 2011 after investigators seized seven laptops, a desktop and several discs and memory cards from his home. Forensic investigators found various digital videos and images of children engaging in graphic sexual activity.

The case was prosecuted by the S.C. Attorney General’s Office, which oversees the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force.

“A lot of the pictures on the zip disc dealt with a lot of children,” Chris Bomar, an investigator with the attorney general’s office, said before sentencing. “They weren’t kids that belonged to his family, but they were other kids from – we don’t even know where they came from.”

Bomar said there were some files that couldn’t be used in the trial because they didn’t meet statutory requirements.

“When you view the video, they’re adults,” he said. “But the title clearly … indicates that the video was intended to be (child pornography).”

Assistant Deputy Attorney General Kyle Senn, who prosecuted the case along with Assistant Attorney General Bethany Miles, said it wasn’t clear if, or how many times, the files were disseminated.

“The totality of the circumstances shows that this was not an accident,” Senn said.

Rutledge, who had no prior arrests, asked for leniency in sentencing.

“My family depends on me – I don’t know what else to say,” he said. “This is my livelihood, this is my family that’s gonna be hurt by this.”

Family members of Rutledge who were in the courtroom Wednesday declined to comment after sentencing.

Teddy Kulmala •  803-329-4082

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