Plumber heading back to prison on more child pornography charges

Johnny Phillips
Johnny Phillips

A Sarasota plumber is going back to prison after admitting he downloaded child pornography and started an online relationship with a teen less than six months after being released from prison for similar charges.

Johnny Phillips, 36, on Monday pleaded to 50 counts of possession of child pornography, use of a computer to solicit a child for a sex act and transmitting harmful material to a child. Phillips had been scheduled to stand trial this week and jury selection for his trial was about to get underway Monday when he entered his plea.

Phillips was sentenced to 30 years in prison by Circuit Judge Charles E. Roberts. Following prison, Phillips will serve 10 years of sexual offender probation and he will be registered as a sexual predator.

“It’s frequently said that men who possess child pornography would never touch a real child, and that they are ‘just looking at pictures,’” Assistant State Attorneys Kate Darby Wallace and Cynthia Meiners said in an issued statement. “Not only is this a false argument, because real children would not be abused to create child pornography if there was no demand for it, but this case is proof positive that men who collect and view child pornography are very willing to abuse the real children in their own lives.”

On July 10, 2015, Phillips was released from prison after serving about seven years and six months of a 10-year sentence for lewd and lascivious battery on a child between 12 and 15 years of age and possession of child pornography convictions, according to Florida Department of Corrections.

Less than six months later, Phillips began an online relationship with a 16-year-old girl in California. After he made sexual comments to the girl and sent nude photos of himself, the girl reported him to law enforcement where she lived. When the case was investigated by the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, it was discovered that Phillips was a registered sexual offender living in Sarasota.

Sarasota police arrested Phillips in April 2016 and seized three cell phones he possessed at the time. The sheriff’s office Digital Forensics unit examined the phones and found numerous images and videos of child pornography that Phillips had downloaded during the week of Christmas in 2015.

The images and videos Phillips downloaded “were extremely disturbing, featuring bondage and the abuse of children by adult men,” prosecutors said.

Jessica De Leon: 941-745-7049, @JDeLeon1012