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Former Forsyth deputy guilty in child porn case
Pruitt ran for sheriff
0723PORN.Scott Pruitt
Scott Pruitt

A former Forsyth County Sheriff’s sergeant was convicted Wednesday of illegally accessing child pornography from the department’s protected investigative files.

Milton Scott Pruitt, 41, wept and embraced his wife after a federal jury in Gainesville found him guilty of two counts of receiving child pornography. The jury of seven women and five men spent just under two hours deliberating the case following three days of testimony and arguments.

Pruitt, who had been free on bond since his August 2008 indictment, was immediately taken into the custody of the U.S. Marshal Service.

U.S. District Court Judge William C. O’Kelley scheduled sentencing for Oct. 8.

Pruitt faces the possibility of up to 20 years in prison.

Pruitt was an unsuccessful candidate for Forsyth County Sheriff last year, finishing second to incumbent Ted Paxton in a three-man race. He was indicted prior to the general election but still received 965 votes for 8 percent of the vote.

Prosecutors said in March 2007, Pruitt accessed a protected investigation database on Forsyth County’s servers using a laptop computer inside his patrol car. Pruitt, who at the time was a uniform patrol sergeant, opened 10 images of child pornography that were stored by a sheriff’s investigator for a criminal case. Pruitt had a password to access the protected files from his days as a detective in the criminal investigations division. Investigators later found evidence that Pruitt had used the Internet to download several hundred images of child pornography on his home computer.

Pruitt was confronted by superiors over the unauthorized viewing, which was discovered by a county information technology employee.

When asked why he would want to look at the images, Pruitt reportedly told a supervisor and a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent that he was "just curious."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Gray told jurors in his closing argument that "this case bothers me, as someone who’s made his career in law enforcement, that he’s a cop."

"Police officers are most often part of the solution in everything we do to try to stop crime and punish crime and deter crime," Gray told the jury. "Not this time. That former law enforcement officer is part of the problem."

Pruitt’s defense attorney tried to argue that there was no evidence that Pruitt was sitting at his home computer when the images were downloaded, and also criticized the poor audio quality of a crucial interview of Pruitt recorded by investigators.

"They want you to convict a man not on evidence, but on lack of evidence," attorney Bill McKenney told the jury.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jill Steinberg countered in her closing that "this whole process should be a search for the truth, not a search for excuses. And the truth in this case is the defendant was ‘just curious.’ And ‘just curious’ means just guilty."

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