A Forsyth County man convicted on 12 counts of sexual exploitation of children will serve six years in prison.
Michael Terrence Cox, 57, pleaded guilty in January to the charges.
Forsyth County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley handed down the punishment Wednesday, which includes 14 years on probation following his release.
Cox will also have to register as a sex offender.
Before he was sentenced, the prosecution showed in court graphic sexual videos of children allegedly found on Cox’s computer.
Bagley said the case and the images were disturbing.
“Mr. Cox you’ve got a problem,” Bagley said. “Anybody who is a decent human being would not want to view those things and you did.”
Bagley admonished Cox for saying in an interview with a probation officer that he didn’t know he hurt anyone by viewing the images.
The judge also said every time such images are viewed, the child is victimized again.
Cox apologized, saying he didn’t remember seeing the videos shown in court.
He maintained he intended to turn the images over to law enforcement before he was arrested in October 2008.
“It started out as an accident, then I got curious what it was all about,” he said.
Cox told the court last month that he was “guilty of doing something stupid” and that he accidentally found Web sites featuring graphic images of children because of a virus.
He said the Web sites came up while he was searching for information on crocheting.
Authorities began monitoring Cox's Internet activity in May 2008. He said he downloaded the images so he could report them, though he never did.
Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Scalia noted that had Cox been making the images himself, he would be sentenced to at least 25 years in prison without parole and life on probation.
“For several months he was actively downloading this material,” Scalia said. “He had a how-to video to teach you how to molest children and infants and not get caught ... this is not a victimless crime and it’s appropriate for him to go to prison.”
Witnesses who spoke on Cox’s behalf characterized him as being honest to a fault and said they did not believe he intentionally downloaded the images.
David Harris, pastor of Cumming New Life Church, said he has known Cox for about five years and has found him to be a good person.
“This seems to me to be more of an aberration than a pattern,” Harris said, adding that he’s never observed Cox behaving inappropriately toward children at the church, nor has he asked to be involved in children’s programs there.