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Child porn dropped; Florence man jailed on firearm charges

February 6, 2013
The Daily News

By NIKKI YOUNK

Staff Writer

FLORENCE, Wis. - A Florence man who was initially accused of various felony counts, including possession of child pornography, felon in possession of a firearm, and receiving and concealing stolen property, has accepted a plea deal that dismisses most of the charges.

Article Photos

Nikki Younk/Daily News Photo
Rodney Conn, left, appears in Florence County Court for a plea and sentencing hearing with his attorney Michael Scholke of Iron Mountain. Conn will serve nine months in jail for two felony counts of felon in possession of a firearm.

Rodney V. Conn, 65, pleaded no contest on Tuesday to two felony counts of felon in possession of a firearm.

He will serve nine months in the Florence County Jail and three years of probation. The sentence will commence on Friday.

Pursuant to the plea deal, special prosecutor Jay Olivares agreed to dismiss nearly a dozen additional felony and misdemeanor charges against Conn.

They included four felony counts of possession of child pornography, two felony counts of felon in possession of a firearm, one felony count of receiving and concealing stolen property, one felony count of possession of explosives for an unlawful purpose, one misdemeanor count of witness intimidation, one misdemeanor count of possession of marijuana, and one misdemeanor count of violation of a restraining order.

During the plea and sentencing hearing Tuesday in Florence County Court, Olivares informed the court that there was insufficient evidence to support the child pornography charges.

"There were photographs that indicated youthful individuals, but no one from the state or sheriff's department could testify that they were under the age of 18 or 21," he explained.

Judge Leon D. Stenz expressed concern that Olivares was dropping the charges without having a doctor examine the photographs. Olivares assured him that he was satisfied with the determinations of law enforcement officials.

Olivares and Conn's attorney Michael Scholke presented a joint recommendation of nine months in jail and three years of probation.

According to the criminal complaint in the case, the charges against Conn stem from a May 24 incident in Florence.

Acting on a tip, deputies from the Florence County Sheriff's Department searched Conn's home for firearms. Since Conn is a convicted felon, he cannot legally own firearms.

The search turned up images of potential child pornography on a laptop computer, four firearms, a lighthouse lens that was allegedly stolen from the Huron Island Lighthouse in Lake Superior sometime in the early 1970s, exploding ammunition, and marijuana.

"Yes, these charges on paper are scary, but Mr. Conn is not a bad person, just a misunderstood person," Scholke told the court.

Scholke claimed that Conn recycles computers from the community and that he never even turned on the laptop that contained the suspected child pornography.

As for the lighthouse lens, Scholke said that Conn found it in pieces at the bottom of Lake Superior while diving. Conn acquired the pieces over a period of two years, he added.

Scholke also said that Conn only had guns because he is a collector.

When given a chance to speak, Conn said that being in jail allowed him to get control of his health and his emotions.

"I'm hoping for a good outcome so I can get on with my life," he said.

Judge Stenz agreed with Scholke that the charges against Conn were not aggravated. However, he was concerned that Conn has a previous felony conviction of burglary from 1994 in Florida.

Ultimately, Judge Stenz decided to go along with the joint recommendation of nine months in jail and three years of probation.

Nikki Younk's e-mail address is nyounk@ironmountaindailynews.com.

 
 

 

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