• 37°

Former Ashland mayor pleads guilty


-- A former Ashland mayor has pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography, a federal charge that forced him out of office earlier this year.

Under a plea agreement reached with prosecutors last week, Paul R. Reeves, 57, still faces 27 to 33 months in prison and a fine of $6,000 to $60,000. He will remain free on bond until his sentencing April 22.

Reeves, standing before U.S. District Judge Henry Wilhoit at the federal courthouse in Ashland, admitted possessing two videotapes that showed children engaged in sexually explicit behavior.

''They were ordered by a friend,'' he told the judge. ''I signed for them.''

Reeves, in answer to a question from Wilhoit, said John B. Riggs, a former business associate also charged in the investigation, placed the order.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Wohlander said the tapes were part of an undercover investigation that began two years ago when Reeves' credit card number was found on a child-porn Web server in Dallas.

Wohlander said the tapes Reeves received had been confiscated in previous federal pornography investigations.

Reeves was indicted in April on charges of conspiring to receive child pornography, receiving child pornography and possessing child pornography. If he had been convicted on all three counts, he could have been sentenced to 35 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

''We made what we believe was a reasonable resolution to the case,'' Wohlander said.

Reeves declined to comment on his guilty plea, which he made in a nearly empty courtroom. Besides a handful of reporters and court personnel, the lone spectator was Rome E. Long Jr., a 72-year-old Ashland man who was angry with the agreement.

''I don't think they should have bargained with him,'' Long said. ''He brought disgrace on the city. He is a disgrace.''

Voters in Ashland chose Steve Gilmore, a former city commissioner, to replace Reeves as mayor.

Riggs, the business associate, was indicted on a charge of possessing child pornography. Wohlander said he expects to reach a plea bargain with Riggs soon. Without a plea bargain, Riggs faces five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

Reeves had served as mayor for the past 1 1/2 years. He had been a city commissioner for nine years.

FBI agent David R. Goodson said in an affidavit that Reeves was in a locked room of his home watching a child pornography tape when investigators executed a search warrant on May 29.

The affidavit alleged that Reeves had ordered videotapes from an undercover company run by postal inspectors.

Reeves had worked as a purchasing agent for A.K. Steel, which contracts with Riggs' company. Reeves retired from that job on May 31.

The indictments allege that Reeves and Riggs possessed depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct. The child pornography, according to the indictments, had been distributed through both the mail and computers.

The children in the photos, Wohlander said, have not been identified. He said they apparently were taken years ago.