FORMER GUARD FACES PRISON
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Sent: Tuesday, April 13, 2004 10:17 AM

Former guard faces prison

He gets a maximum 14-year federal term for making porn films with underage daughters.

By Denny Walsh -- Bee Staff Writer - (Published April 13, 2004)

A former California prison guard was sentenced Monday in Sacramento federal court to a maximum 14 years in prison on a guilty plea to using two minor females in the production of pornographic films.

Neil Leash has also pleaded guilty in Calaveras County to multiple instances of child abuse in the 1990s and is facing 25 years to life in state prison.

Leash, 47, will serve his federal time first.

Assistant Federal Defender Caro Marks told U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. that her client "needs and wants help," and the judge recommended Leash be sent to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons' medical facility in Butner, N.C., for treatment.

"I wish I could ask you to give him more time in federal prison," Marks told Damrell. "He has no chance of survival in state prison," she said, noting Leash's 20 years as a state correctional officer and the nature of his crime. "He will die at the hands of other inmates."

Responding to Marks' laments about the severity of the penalties, Assistant U.S. Attorney Laurel White told the judge, "A significant component of any sentence is punishment and, if ever there was a case that cries out for punishment, it is this one."

In giving Leash the most time behind bars allowed under federal sentencing guidelines, Damrell remarked on "the irony of a correctional officer committing these acts and, in effect, imposing a life sentence on ... children. There is no 168 months for them. They will live in their own prison for the rest of their lives."

According to a written plea agreement signed by Leash in December, Calaveras County sheriff's deputies raided his San Andreas residence on Sept. 17, 2002, and seized 20 tapes, both in 8 millimeter and VHS format, showing more than 100 episodes of him engaged in sexual activity with his underage daughters.

Leash admitted that the girls ranged in age from 7 to 17 at the time he filmed the encounters. They were filmed on 8 millimeter tapes and copied to VHS.

Still images matching individual frames of the videos were found on CD-ROMs and a computer hard drive, and were among more than 500 images of child pornography stored on Leash's hard drive, according to the plea agreement.

Leash pleaded guilty Dec. 15 to 11 counts stemming from the sexual exploitation of children and one count of possessing child pornography.

He chose not to speak at Monday's sentencing, standing mute while Marks told Damrell that his silence should not be construed as disrespect for the court.

"He's sorry for what he's done," she assured the judge. "He's kinda given up. He's on suicide watch at the Sacramento County jail. He's overwhelmed by what he's done and the system's reaction to it. The prospect of wearing the other uniform is untenable. I think his silence is a way of staving off any further feeling.

"This has shipwrecked his entire family. His wife has divorced him."

Leash, who was a tower guard at the Sierra Conservation Center near Jamestown when he was arrested in 2002, joined the Department of Corrections in 1982. He had worked at the Sierra facility since 1994.

The raid on his home followed a tip, Calaveras County Sheriff's Capt. Michael Walker said.
 

About the Writer
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The Bee's Denny Walsh can be reached at (916) 321-1189 or dwalsh@sacbee.com


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