AMESBURY – A local man charged with having more than 100 pornographic photos and videos of children on his phone and computer was sentenced Friday by a Newburyport District Court judge to two years probation and must register as a sex offender.

Thomas P. Gardner-Dickson, 35, of 139 Elm St., who was charged in April with two counts of possessing child pornography, pleaded guilty before Judge William Martin. 

During Gardner-Dickson's time on probation, he must undergo a mental health evaluation, have no unsupervised contact with children under 16 and register with the state as a sex offender. 

It was the last probation condition that resulted in the only disagreement between Gardner-Dickson's attorney and Essex County prosecutor Shailagh Kennedy. Gardner-Dickson's attorney argued that because her client suffered from mental and cognitive limitations, he shouldn't have to register.

"A kind gentle human being who wants to do what's right," Gardner-Dickson's attorney said. 

But Kennedy countered that despite his limitations, Gardner-Dickson knew wrong from right and repeatedly broke the law. 

"It wasn't an accident," she said. 

Martin quickly sided with Kennedy. 

The investigation of Gardner-Dickson began in February 2019 when Amesbury police Detective Steven Reed received a cyber tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, according to a police report.

That tip was first obtained in December 2018 from the social media app Snapchat. The Snapchat whistleblower provided an internet protocol address, screen name and phone number that came back to Gardner-Dickson.

Reed opened a digital file associated with the tip and deemed it lewd and lascivious. The file featured a naked child between 2 and 5 years old. Based on the file, Reed obtained a warrant to search Gardner-Dickson's Elm Street home.

On April 2, the day after receiving the warrant, Reed, other Amesbury police officers and state troopers went to the house. Police first spoke to Gardner-Dickson's mother and showed her the search warrant. They then asked to speak to her son.

When Gardner-Dickson came down the stairs, he was holding a cell phone. He handed it over to police and unlocked the screen

Police searched the house and found a maroon laptop belonging to Gardner-Dickson in the living room. Between the phone and laptop, police found 139 video clips and images depicting numerous sexual acts and poses involving children.

Based on the images and clips found on both devices, Reed charged Gardner-Dickson with two counts of possessing child pornography, according to his report.

Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached at drogers@newburyportnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.

 

 

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