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story.lead_photo.caption Nathan Karl Thomas (Photo via Texarkana Gazette)

TEXARKANA — A federal judge sentenced a man from Lockesburg to 30 years in prison Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Susan Hickey sentenced Nathan Karl Thomas to 180 months on each of two counts of receipt of child pornography and ordered the terms to run consecutively. Thomas, 25, pleaded guilty in March 2016 as part of a plea arrangement in the Texarkana Division of the Western District of Arkansas.

Hickey heard testimony Tuesday from witnesses regarding Thomas’ sexual, physical and psychological abuse of two teen girls and his obsession with child pornography.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kyra Jenner and Ben Wulff urged Hickey to assess a maximum 40-year sentence. Thomas’ lawyer, federal public defender Bruce Eddy, asked for a 10-year term.

“The defendant is an extraordinarily disturbed, deviant sexual offender who is a serial ‘hands-on’ offender against minors, as evidenced by the PSR’s [Pre-Sentence Investigation Report] descriptions of his sexual assaults on minors,” stated a sentencing memorandum prepared by Jenner. “The defendant seeks victims he can influence and dominate so that they will produce the type of illicit images he requests. The defendant poses a danger to society, specifically, to minors, who are significantly less physically and psychologically capable of recognizing and protecting themselves from the defendant’s manipulation and guile.”

Witnesses testified that Thomas preyed upon the teen girls when they were 14 and 15, giving horrific accounts of bondage, assault, sodomy and more. Thomas coerced the girls into creating pornographic images of themselves by threatening to withdraw his attention and affection, witnesses said.

He repeatedly sent images of young girls being raped to one of the victims and taught her how to find and share child pornography.

Haidy Branson, 26, of New Boston, Texas, testified that she often shared child pornography with Thomas and that the two had shared a mutual interest in child exploitation and incest since high school. Branson is currently serving a federal sentence for production of child pornography that was assessed in 2015 in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

“They were just like any other teenaged girls looking for acceptance,” Wulff said Wednesday. “These girls wanted love, companionship and acceptance. Their physical scars will heal, but they have received a life sentence from the emotional abuse and psychological trauma.”

One of the victims testified Tuesday that she now becomes alarmed when she sees a man walking with a child out of fear that the child is being sexually abused. Hickey also heard victim impact statements Wednesday from the father of one victim and the mother of another.

“Do you know what a failure as a parent I feel like? God trusted me with this angel on Earth, and I couldn’t protect her from a deviant child predator,” Jenner read from the mother’s statement. “This man has destroyed her childhood as well as our relationship for many years.”

The father who testified struggled to fight back tears as he spoke, saying that his daughter was never the same after running away one night to meet Thomas.

“Let’s be honest,” he said. “This case will haunt us and my family will suffer because of it for many years to come.”

Hickey addressed Thomas before announcing his sentence Wednesday.

“Mr. Thomas, you are a predator,” Hickey said. “This will follow the victims the rest of their lives and their families’ lives. I have no doubt this would have continued and escalated if law enforcement had not become involved.”

Hickey mentioned Thomas’ age, 21, at the time of his arrest and his lack of criminal history. Despite Hickey’s decision to sentence Thomas to 10 years shy of the maximum, Eddy objected and described the sentence as “unreasonable.”

There is no parole from a federal prison sentence. Good time in the federal system currently accumulates at 54 days per year.

Upon his release from prison Thomas will be supervised by federal officials for a period of 10 years and must register as a sex offender. If he violates the conditions of his supervised release, which includes only accessing a computer or the Internet with permission, Thomas could be ordered to serve more time behind bars.

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