Carson City man gets probation in child pornography case |

Carson City man gets probation in child pornography case

F.T. Norton
Brian Ross Fenn

A Carson City judge Tuesday gave probation to a man who pleaded guilty to four counts of possession of child pornography, baffling the District Attorney’s Office, which requested a prison sentence.

“We are shocked and disappointed at the sentence,” said District Attorney Neil Rombardo on Wednesday. “In these videos these children were screaming.”

Judge Todd Russell sentenced Brian Ross Fenn, 25, to five years probation with a suspended prison sentence of 18 to 60 months. Fenn must register as a sex offender, refrain from alcohol, drugs and computer use and seek outpatient counseling, among other conditions that prohibit where he can work and the places he can visit.

Fenn was arrested in October after AOL alerted authorities that he was trading child pornography online, according to court records.

Investigators confiscated computer equipment at his home that contained hundreds of images and videos of children as young as 1 year old being violated by adults or forced into sex with other children, the police report indicates.

Fenn, who at the time of his arrest worked at two haunted houses in Carson City, was initially charged with 17 counts of possession of child pornography. In exchange for the plea to four counts, the remaining charges were dropped. Each count carried a penalty of one to six years in prison, said Assistant District Attorney Gerald Gardner, who handled the case.

In sentencing Fenn, Russell said he was hesitant to offer probation, but a psychological assessment determined Fenn was at low risk to possess child pornography again and at an even lower risk of abusing children.

“I’m kind of reluctant to do this because I think child pornography affects all the young children in the world,” said Russell. “I think that the people that are involved in child pornography really deserve all the punishment in the world, but in this particular case I’m going to grant you probation.”

“This is kind of the exception,” the judge said. “I am primarily doing this for two reasons. One, your age. Two, I think that you do not present any threat to any minor child at this time … the evidence clearly is that you’ve not threatened any minor child.”

“The final reason is because of the significant support group you have from your family,” said Russell. “I gave you a tougher sentence and the reason I gave you a tougher sentence is if you come back, you face a tougher imprisonment. So if you come back, you better understand that.”

Russell declined Wednesday to comment on the sentencing.

Rombardo said it’s his office’s policy to not introduce child pornography into evidence to avoid traumatizing court staff.

“They are extremely disturbing images,” he said.

Instead, Rombardo said, the evidence is described in detail.

But now, concerned that Russell did not fully comprehend the extent of the offenses, Rombardo said he intends to change that policy.

“Somebody pleads guilty to four counts, you describe the images to the judge, and our belief was that was going to be enough,” he said. “But now we have to let the court see just what these are.”