(updates: adds new details, remarks by commonwealth’s attorney)
BOWLING GREEN – A Ruther Glen man will serve 14 years in prison for sexually molesting a teenage girl, soliciting her for child pornography, and multiple charges of possessing child pornography.
Henry C. Griffin pleaded guilty to 23 charges in Caroline Circuit Court on Wednesday. Under the terms of a plea agreement, he will serve 14 years behind bars.
Griffin, 45, who was arrested in August 2012, pleaded guilty to one count each of aggravated sexual battery, animate object sexual penetration, and solicitation for child pornography. In accordance with the plea agreement, Judge Horace Revercomb sentenced him to 20 years on the first charge with 16 suspended, 20 years in prison on the second count with 15 suspended, and 20 years in prison on the third charge with 15 suspended.
Griffin also pleaded guilty to 20 counts of possessing child pornography and was given a suspended sentence of one year for each count.
Revercomb also ordered Griffin to pay restitution of $15,000 to the victim; the funds will be put in a trust fund for her, and she will be able to access them when she is 21.
In exchange for his plea, prosecutors dismissed one count each of sodomy, taking indecent liberties, obstruction of justice, conspiracy to induce false testimony, and 380 additional counts of possession of child pornography.
Griffin initially was arrested on one charge of soliciting child pornography and one charge of possessing child pornography. Investigators subsequently charged him with the sex offenses and possession of child pornography charges.
Authorities originally were alerted to the case in the spring of 2012 after the mother of the girl, who was 13 at the time, discovered lewd text messages on her daughter’s cell phone, deputy commonwealth’s attorney Diane Abato told the court.
The girl initially told authorities that Griffin solicited nude photos of her, but she said that he had not touched her, according to Abato.
After he was arrested, Griffin admitted he had downloaded child pornography on his computer “on a regular basis,” said Abato. Investigators found 2,000 pornographic images on his computer, including pictures of the victim.
In interviews with investigators, Griffin admitted engaging in the sexual acts he was subsequently charged with, said Abato. They took place in his truck when he was supposed to be driving the girl to a store in March and April of 2012, she indicated.
The girl later admitted the sexual acts occurred and described them to investigators. She did not disclose them at first because she was “scared and nervous,” said Abato.
Since last fall, Griffin enlisted his girlfriend, an adult daughter, and a minor daughter in Florida to attempt to pressure the victim and prevent her from testifying against him, said Abato. “In fact, they did,” she said. The victim was examined by a licensed counselor who found the girl was “terrified” of the prospect of testifying, said Abato.
The girlfriend, Tracey Swaney, 22, and adult daughter, Destiny Griffin-Bailey, 21, both of Ruther Glen, were both indicted by a Caroline County Circuit Court grand jury in March on identical charges of obstruction of justice and conspiracy to induce false testimony.
Abato later obtained a court order prohibiting Griffin from communicating via phone or mail except with his defense attorney. In support of her motion, Abato provided transcripts of numerous messages exchanged between the victim and Griffin’s minor daughter via the Facebook social networking website. One message said, “hey I just got off the fone with my dad plz try ur best to keep him out.” Another said, “Do that thing I asked about my dad if you don’t he will be in there over 15 years.” In another the victim was told she would have to testify in front of 100 people.
Swaney and Griffin-Bailey admitted that Griffin enlisted them to put pressure on the victim, Abato said later. Griffin-Bailey acted as a go-between who gave “marching orders” to Griffin’s minor daughter, she said. The minor daughter was not charged.
Abato withdrew the charges against Swaney on Wednesday and indicated that the charges against Griffin-Bailey also will be withdrawn.
Prosecutors negotiated a plea agreement for several reasons, Commonwealth’s Attorney Tony Spencer said later.
“The victim was terrified of coming to court,” he said, and the plea agreement eliminated the need for her to testify. The agreement also included restitution to the victim, he noted. The case also presented some challenges to prosecutors, according to Spencer, because the victim initially told authorities that Griffin had not molested her.
In addition, Griffin is in bad health due to a heart condition, according to Spencer. “Fourteen years could be a life sentence,” he said, because Griffin may die while incarcerated because of his health problems.
Finally, Griffin will be under stringent conditions for the rest of his life if he is released from prison in 14 years. Those conditions include prohibitions against contacting the victim, having unsupervised contact with minors, and consuming alcohol or using drugs. Griffin also will have to register as a sex offender and remain under supervised probation. If he does not comply with any of the conditions, he would face having the rest of his suspended prison time – 66 years – imposed, noted Spencer.
“For all these reasons, this was a good plea agreement,” said Spencer.