Blackfoot man sentenced after being found guilty to sexual contact with toddler - East Idaho News
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Blackfoot man sentenced after being found guilty to sexual contact with toddler

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Jones was sentenced in the Bingham County Courthouse, which is currently under construction, sounds of which can be distinctly heard in the video above. | Kaitlyn Hart,

BLACKFOOT – A 43-year-old man was sentenced on Tuesday after a jury found him guilty of touching an 18-month-old with his genitals.

District Judge Bruce Pickett sentenced Eric Whitney Jones to a minimum of two and a maximum of 20 years in prison. He is also required to register as a sex offender.

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Jones was found guilty in January after a one-day trial in which he was convicted of battery with the intent to commit lewd conduct of a child.

RELATED | Man arrested for alleged sexual contact with a toddler

During the sentencing, Jones’ lawyer, Allen Browning, argued for Jones to be placed on probation, saying his client has been seeking treatment for his “urges” for multiple years and that his family has come up with a ‘safety plan’ to allow Jones back into his home, where six children live.

“(Jones) very much desires to be a father to his children, a husband to his wife, and a positive influence in the community,” said Browning. “This particular crime is something that he is here to answer for. And I think he’s addressed it in the proper way.”

Browning noted that Jones admitted the crime to his wife, church leader, and counselor and quoted multiple letters of support from friends and family. According to Browning, Jones is a positive influence and deserves to return home.

“He is not a danger to the children. He is actually a positive influence in their lives,” said Browning. “Did he do something wrong four years ago? Yeah, he did. Is he here to be punished for that? Yes, he is.”

Bingham County Prosecutor Ryan Jolley recommended a prison sentence of a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 20 years.

Jolley disagreed with Browning, saying that Jones does not deserve probation due to the seriousness of the crime, and allegations that he previously sexually assaulted two other victims in the same nature as this conviction..

“During his cross-examination, I specifically asked him, ‘What possible purpose could you have for pulling out your penis while you were holding (an 18-month-old)?” said Jolley. “He was speechless. He couldn’t think of an answer, and that’s because he knew what he was doing was wrong.”

Jones provided a statement to the court through tears, apologizing to his family for the harm and saying he is an avid church-goer, and has finished a 12-part addiction recovery course.

“What I did four years ago was wrong. It was wrong and immoral,” said Jones. “The past four years, I have not repeated the offense and have worked hard to adjust my thoughts and actions so that I can be a strength and blessing to my family and community.”

Pickett then explained his ruling, addressing the letters of support but recognizing the seriousness of the crime.

“You had (the child) while changing her clothing, and you took out your penis and touched her. I will say this is not a lewd conduct case, and I give you credit for that. You did stop. It could’ve been worse,” said Pickett. “The court sees this case as not as severe as a lewd conduct case. I do think you’re remorseful.”

Pickett continued, noting that Jones’ victim was too young to protect herself or report the abuse, and most likely does not remember what happened, leading to the potential for counseling “for the rest of (her) life.”

“It’s been difficult in this case because of the age of the victim. They don’t remember it. They don’t remember what happened. As has been argued by your attorney, they’re more traumatized by what’s going on now than what happened,” said Pickett. “Those victims are the most vulnerable. They can’t stop you, they can’t tell somebody this was wrong, they can’t go and report it, they can’t do all of those things that society says kids can do to protect themselves.”