KNOXVILLE — A Maryville man pleaded guilty Tuesday in the U.S. District Court to two counts of producing and disseminating child pornography.
Defense attorney T. Scott Jones said George Edward Robert Everhart pleaded guilty Tuesday to two counts of possessing child pornography that showed a child 12 or younger who was transported through interstate or foreign commerce.
Jones said prosecutors tentatively have agreed to drop five other charges related to the production and distribution of child pornography under a Section 11(c)1 plea agreement, which allows the courts to reject the arrangement pending the outcome of a presentence investigation.
Sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 10.
“If everything goes through, the other charges will be dismissed as part of the plea agreement,” Jones said.
The case proved more complex than some similar federal cases because it raised several legally sticky questions.
Everhart, 30, was indicted on June 19, 2018, following the notification of Google management of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children after an engineer found pornographic images of young children in Everhart’s storage account dating back to 2015.
Technology companies typically are required to be shown a search warrant before accessing user-initiated virtual storage accounts.
Exceptions exist during certain types of account failures or outside breaches, when a company’s legal and engineering teams observe carefully delineated protocols for handling potentially leaked or damaged items.
Investigators also found other images in an unallocated storage space on Everhart’s computer that wasn’t specified in a search warrant, which Jones and co-counsel Gena Lewis contended should have been excluded as evidence.
The defense also had recently attempted to subpoena a top Google global security executive to disclose the company’s practices related to account storage and access.
Jones and Lewis also contended that NCMEC acted as a governmental entity in notifying federal authorities and providing the photos to launch the investigation.
The agency was created in 1984 after Congress passed the Missing Children’s Assistance Act to require the Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to create a national clearinghouse to track cases involving missing and endangered children.
NCMEC is one of several programs operated under the MCAA law, including the Amber Alert program.
It is registered as a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) and is funded through the DOJ and other private and public sources.
Jones estimated Everhart faces a possible range of 18 to 25 years in prison, but may be sentenced to around 17 years.
“A risk-factor assessment must be done,” Jones said.
Everhart also would likely be required to register as a lifetime sex offender, Jones added.
“There is no winner in this case,” Jones said. “It’s just a bad set of circumstances.”