Disgraced 50-year-old Dad Had a Topless Photo of a 14-year-old Girl; Did He Go to Jail or Did He get to Go Plant Cotton?
SAN ANGELO, TX — A 50-year-old divorced father of three pleaded guilty Wednesday to possession of child pornography and will spend time in jail ahead of a seven year deferred adjudication probation sentence but not before he gets to spend the next eight days planting cotton at his farm in Wall, TX.
Corby Dale Chitsey admitted in court on the witness stand that he had a photo of the 14-year-old victim on his phone and kept it hidden for three months. The victim, now 18, also took the stand for the prosecution in a volatile trial in 340th District Judge Jay Weatherby's courtroom that included Chitsey's former mother-in-law being thrown out of the courtroom by the bailiff and a Sheriff's Deputy for interrupting the proceedings by shouting a question at Chitsey while he was on the witness stand.
Chitsey is accused of capturing a snapchat photo from a relative's phone, transferring it to another phone, keeping it secret for at least three months, and then impersonating a relative by creating several fake social media accounts and sharing the photo with the victim's friends in revenge for social media posts which he testified hurt his relative.
The 14-year-old victim testified from the witness stand that she believed she was sending the topless photo of herself to her boyfriend. Chitsey testified he kept the topless photo secret for at least three months before sharing it with the victim's friends using the fake social media accounts. First Assistant District Attorney Jason Ferguson asked Chitsey, "What did you do with a picture of a 14-year-old girl for three months?" Chitsey became belligerent on the witness stand and said, "I don't know."
Here's how the trial went down Wednesday:
Judge Weatherby called the case charging Chitsey with one count of possession of child pornography stemming from an investigation in Nov. of 2017. Assistant District Attorney Jason Ferguson called his first witness, the ruggedly handsome Tom Green Co. Sgt. Andrew Alwine to the witness stand. Alwine testified that he was called into the investigation by Child Protective Services because there was an accusation that someone on social media was sending a topless photo of a minor girl. Alwine told the court that his investigation found Chitsey in possession of two cell phones that had the photo in them. Both phones belonged to Chitsey. Alwine also testified that Chitsey was uncooperative in his interview and failed to provide the password to one of the cell phones. Chitsey also didn't answer his questions during the interview.
The first surprise of the Wednesday afternoon trial was when Ferguson called the victim to the witness stand. The victim told Judge Weatherby that she had a really hard time has dealt with shame and embarrassment because her friends and classmates have seen the photo for her last two years in high school. She said she felt very violated. The victim became emotional and cried on the stand. The victim also testified that Chitsey sent her the photo by social media.
Ferguson rested his case and that made way for the next shocker of the trial; defense attorney Kirk Hawkins called Chitsey to testify. Chitsey admitted he took the topless photo from his relative's phone and transferred it to his phone. He kept it secret for three months. Chitsey said he did it because his relative came to him crying about social media posts from the victim and he just wanted his relative to stop hurting.
It was at that point that Chitsey's former mother-in-law stood up in the gallery and tried to ask him a question. The older woman was quickly removed from the courtroom by the bailiff and Alwine.
When questioning resumed after the interruption. Chitsey said, "I wish it had never happened. It was the worst thing I've ever done. I wish I could take it back." He then apologized to the victim who was sitting on the front row in the courtroom.
Under intense cross examination questioning from Ferguson, Chitsey admitted, "I shouldn't have kept it (the photo)!" He continued, "It was a terrible decision. I just went and grabbed it (the phone) and did it (sent the photo on social media to the victim's friends!)". Ferguson then pointed out that Chitsey created at least six fake social media accounts to share the topless photo with the victim's friends.
The savvy prosecutor then called the victim's mother to the stand who testified Chitsey never told her that the topless photo of her then 14-year-old daughter existed despite Chitsey's earlier testimony. "He never said that." she said emphatically. Then the prosecution and defense rested their cases.
Hawkins began his closing argument of Chitsey by saying he was a very low risk of offending again and that he would always have the stigma of being a sex offender, a pedophile, for the rest of his life and that would haunt him. Hawkins asked Judge Weatherby for deferred adjudication probation because Chitsey had never been in trouble before and added that Chitsey has suffered since the investigation began.
In his closing argument, Ferguson said, "Normally we don't hear from the victim (in child pornography cases) and this case is unique because the defendant knew the victim." Ferguson called it strange that Chitsey knew the victim, kept the topless photo, and then sent it out over social media to her friends. He then told the court that it must have been awful for the victim to spend the last two years of high school wondering who had seen the photo, who was sharing it on social media and how hard that must have been.
Ferguson closed by saying Chitsey's attitude the whole time has been that this is no big deal; that he wants to go plant his cotton first.
Judge Weatherby recessed the trial so he could review the testimony and the circumstances surrounding the testimony.
When the judge reconvened, he was ready to pronounce the sentence but he had some things that needed to be said first.
Weatherby said, "Every defendant who enters this courtroom is someone's son, daughter, father, mother, co-worker or church member. And that goes for the victims as well. Each of them is someone's daughter or son or father or mother or co-worker or church member." Weatherby told Chitsey that he hurt them all on both sides; he did damage to people on both sides and he has to live with that.
Judge Weatherby then addressed the victim specifically; "Some would say the victim in this case is equally responsible. This is not your fault. You were a child. Adults are held to a different and higher standard. We should know what's right and wrong and even if you were to place a box of photographs in front of an adult, that person should know not to even open the box and certainly not to distribute those photos."
Weatherby then sentenced Corby Chitsey to seven years deferred adjudication probation which begins with 90 days in jail beginning today (Wednesday). Chitsey's attorney politely requested he be allowed to finish planting cotton with his 73-year-old father because they have to finish planting cotton by June 20.
Judge Weatherby furled his brow and clicked his pen over and over while he thought about Hawkin's request.
He then pronounced sentence: Chitsey will spend 90 days in jail.
He will report to the Tom Green County Jail on June 24 and spend 30 days there. Then he will report back to the jail at 3 p.m. each Friday and depart at 3 p.m. each Sunday for the next 30 weekends until he reaches that 90 days in jail.
Corby Chitsey is now a convicted sex offender. He will also have to pay court costs and fees and attend sex offender classes twice a week for the next seven years. He will also have no internet or cell phone access without porn blocking software. He will not be allowed to leave Tom Green County without permission from his probation officer.
Chitsey has the right to appeal his sentence because he didn't accept a plea deal.
The now 18-year-old victim, her family and friends and community will live with the consequences of Corby Dale Chitsey's actions for the rest of their lives.
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