Kenneth Nichelson’s attorney told a federal judge Wednesday that his client’s child pornography charges led to the loss of his family, home, reputation and livelihood.
Now the former Columbus body shop owner will lose his freedom, too, as U.S. District Court Judge Clay Land sentenced him to 15 years in prison.
Once a church youth soccer coach and owner of KN Automotive and Collision Repair at 1330 10th Ave., Nichelson pleaded guilty Dec. 17 to having pornography depicting sexually explicit images of young boys delivered to his Cataula, Ga., home.
He faced a minimum of 15 years in prison because of a prior offense, having pleaded guilty Aug. 22, 1994, to two misdemeanor counts of sexual abuse involving a 7-year-old boy in Niagara County, N.Y.
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In court Wednesday, Nichelson told Land of being hospitalized for an apparent heart attack and praying for people in the emergency room who’d been injured in an accident. He said he heard a voice ask, “Son, do you have unclean thoughts?” When he admitted he did, the voice told him, “It’s not too late to repent.”
That prompted him to forgive his father and “those who sinned against me as a child,” Nichelson said, telling Land that though he faced years in prison, “I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my chest.”
Land was unmoved, as attorneys noted Nichelson also had been accused of molesting a local child, though authorities chose not to pursue that case in Superior Court because of Nichelson’s federal case.
“My view, Mr. Nichelson, is that you are a sexual predator and you are a danger to the community,” Land said, ordering Nichelson to register as a sex offender and submit to “a lifetime of supervised release” when he gets out of prison.
Nichelson admitted having a pornographic DVD when federal agents served a search warrant July 8, 2014, at his home on U.S. 27 in Cataula.
According to a postal inspector’s affidavit, the video was a 1994 production that depicted boys apparently ages 8 to 14 naked on a beach, “in various poses, interacting with each other with numerous shots where the focus is on the boys’ exposed naked genitals.”
No overt sexual acts were shown, though some footage showed the boys “naked and wrestling with each other,” the affidavit said.
Agents said Nichelson also admitted downloading images of nude prepubescent boys from a Russian website. “He said he has been viewing these types of images on the Internet for at least 15 years and views them for sexual gratification,” the affidavit said.
Authorities said the investigation leading to Nichelson’s arrest began in October 2010, when the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Canada’s Toronto Police Service probed a production company called the “Toronto Company” after it provoked more than 20 complaints to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
By ordering DVDs through the company’s website, postal inspectors in Brentwood, Tenn., traced the distribution to a shipping facility in North Tonawanda, N.Y., which was sending the orders by the postal service’s Priority Mail.
On May 1, 2011, the Toronto Police Service raided the Toronto Company, seizing not only its inventory but its customer database, which revealed shipments all over the world along with hundreds to U.S. residents, including Nichelson.
Company records showed Nichelson had six transactions from June 18, 2010, to March 5, 2011, ordering nine DVDs or digital downloads worth $168, showing either videos or still images captured while videos were being recorded.
An affidavit filed by Postal Inspector Jeffrey Adkins said Cataula’s postmaster told him Nichelson opened the post office box there on Dec. 2, 2008, and closed it on June 11, 2011, a month after Canadian authorities raided the Toronto Company.