A Simpson County man with a prior conviction for attempting to rape a 3-year-old was sentenced to prison for 15 years in a child sexual exploitation case featuring materials a judge described as “nothing short of reprehensible.”
Barret Lawrence, 38, of Franklin, received the sentence Wednesday in U.S. District Court after pleading guilty to charges of receiving child pornography, attempted receipt of child pornography, possession of child pornography and accessing with the intent to view child pornography.
Prior to being charged in this case, Lawrence was found guilty in 2000 by a jury in Warren Circuit Court of a count of first-degree attempted rape.
Lawrence was accused in that case of attempting to sexually assault a 3-year-old girl in 1999 in a bathroom at Alvaton Church of Christ. Sentenced to 20 years in that case, Lawrence was released from prison in 2010, but federal prosecutors said that he began attempting to access websites featuring images of child sexual exploitation within a few years.
“We have some of the worst variety of what might be available on the internet here in this case,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Zimdahl said in court Wednesday when describing the evidence collected in the investigation. “The defendant poses a very serious risk to children.”
An investigation by the FBI found that Lawrence had accessed a website in 2019 that focused on sharing images and videos of child sexual abuse, with users required to create an account to access most of the material, according to court records.
FBI agents executed a search warrant at Lawrence’s residence last year, which led to the seizure of computers and a memory card found to contain images and videos of child sexual abuse that Lawrence began accessing in 2014, court records show.
At his sentencing, Lawrence apologized for his actions.
“My family have been more than supportive considering all that I have done,” Lawrence said. “I am sorry and I don’t know what else to do.”
Zimdahl said that four people identified as victims have asked for restitution, and prosecutors wanted Lawrence to pay $3,000 in restitution to each of the four victims who filed paperwork requesting payment.
Filings in the federal case indicated that Lawrence accessed materials of children believed to be as young as 3 years old depicting them sexually abused.
U.S. District Court Senior Judge Greg Stivers said the written descriptions of the materials provided by federal prosecutors were disturbing.
“I just couldn’t frankly believe what I was reading,” Stivers said in court. “There’s nothing more shameful than hurting a child, and I don’t understand how a person can derive gratification from those images.”
After serving his 15-year sentence, Lawrence will be on supervised release for the rest of his life.
Rebecca Blair elicited tears of joy from a TriStar Greenview Regional Hospital patient recently, and the two never met.
Blair probably does that a lot.
An ultrasound technician at Greenview, Blair took it upon herself last year to turn her hobby of bracelet-making into an outreach to patients having mammograms.
Those patients now receive a bracelet made by Blair and usually bearing a bead with the pink ribbon representing breast cancer awareness.
It’s a small gesture that one of Blair’s co-workers says can go a long way.
“I had a patient tear up a little bit and give me a hug after I gave her the bracelet,” said Cierra Willis, a radiology technician at Greenview. “Each day, there’s at least one person who has had something bad in their life. The bracelets help.
“I think it’s amazing that she (Blair) does that in her spare time.”
That she can fashion bracelets out of beads and cord and give the finished product away is not nearly as amazing as how Blair fashioned her giving nature out of a tragic event.
In 2004, Blair’s husband, Mark Blair, died of brain cancer, leaving her to raise their two children on her own.
Giving up her job as an instructional assistant, Blair earned her ultrasound technician certification and started the job that would lead her to help others through her bracelets.
“My husband’s death helped pave the way for me to get into the medical field,” said Blair, 56. “Any bad news you get can always lead to something good.”
That attitude led Blair to turn her longtime hobby into a vehicle for helping others.
“I’ve always made bracelets as a hobby,” she said. “I saw these beads with pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness, and I started using them to make bracelets for our staff.”
Her background as the spouse of a cancer patient then led Blair to expand her bracelet gifts to others who had been touched by the disease.
“When you’re diagnosed with something as tragic as cancer, you often think it’s a death sentence,” Blair said. “It’s scary.”
To allay those fears, Blair began making bracelets for the hospital’s cancer patients and for breast cancer survivors. That led to her current practice of making bracelets for anyone who gets a mammogram.
Blair, who said she has made thousands of bracelets over the years, has paid for many of the gifts out of her own pocket but now gets help from Greenview in making the items that she says are a token of her wish for all the patients.
“I just want them to know that somebody cares,” she said.
Two teachers will be honored with induction into the Gov. Louie B. Nunn Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame next month – including a Glasgow educator in her 27th year at Barren County High School.
Sharon Coomer Mattingly, a Spanish teacher at the school, will be inducted into the Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame next month, along with Evelyn Douglas of Shepherdsville, a longtime math teacher at Bullitt Central High School.
The induction ceremony will be held Nov. 19 at Western Kentucky University, the school announced in a news release Monday. Since COVID-19 restrictions prevented an induction ceremony last year, 2020 Hall of Fame inductees Lynn Riedling and Wanda Carol Clouse will also be inducted alongside their fellow 2021 inductees.
Created in 2000 thanks to a gift by former Gov. Nunn, the Kentucky Teacher Hall of Fame strives to recognize the vital role classroom teachers play in shaping the lives of young people and the long-term success of the state’s economy.
WKU was selected as the home of the state’s Teacher Hall of Fame because of its longstanding commitment to teacher education, which spans more than 100 years.
Kentucky Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. will not run for re-election next year, ending his tenure on the Kentucky Supreme Court after two terms.
The Bowling Green resident announced Wednesday that he plans to retire after a 30-year career as a jurist.
“On Jan. 6 I will have my 30th anniversary on the bench and I think it’s time for me to do something else,” Minton said.
The state’s top judiciary official received his law degree from the University of Kentucky and was in private law practice for 15 years until becoming a Warren Circuit Court judge in 1992.
He served in the circuit court for 11 years before being named to the Kentucky Court of Appeals in 2003, serving as a justice there for three years.
Minton was elected to the Kentucky Supreme Court in 2006 as a justice representing the 2nd Supreme Court District and was named chief justice two years later.
He represents a district that encompasses Warren and 13 other counties, having been re-elected in 2014 to a second eight-year term.
“I wanted to give the people in the district who are interested in this job an opportunity to come forward if they wanted to file,” Minton said.
Kentucky Court of Appeals Judge Kelly Thompson of Bowling Green recently filed to run for the Supreme Court seat Minton holds.
Since early last year, the state Supreme Court has made a number of wide-ranging decisions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the issuing of emergency orders restricting public access to judicial facilities during the pandemic’s early months.
As a result, in-person hearings were abandoned in favor of virtual court proceedings taking place over Zoom and similar apps.
Minton said that when the pandemic arose, the feeling initially was that the orders would be in place for a few weeks.
“It turned out we had to manage a situation nobody had ever encountered,” Minton said. “I’m really proud of the way our judges and clerks made themselves more flexible and more responsive. They understood our constitutional obligation to keep court open and our obligation to the people we serve to keep them safe.”
The high court has also weighed in on executive orders issued by Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear in an effort to combat the pandemic.
Last year, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the governor’s orders in a ruling that turned back challenges to the orders from a number of local businesses, but a ruling in August from the court validated laws enacted by the General Assembly to limit Beshear’s emergency powers.
As head of the state judiciary, Minton has worked to identify priorities for the state judicial branch.
In July, Minton spoke before the General Assembly’s Interim State Government committee in support of judicial redistricting of Kentucky’s circuit and district courts.
On Wednesday, Minton said he planned to go to bat for employees in the court system and request pay raises for them in the next state budget.
“I want the General Assembly to address this,” Minton said. “I want to make our pay on par with what’s paid in the executive branch or legislative branch. We have a high expectation of performance for people who work in the courts, yet the pay differential is just shocking.”