The state is seeking a 75-year sentence for a Hagerstown man who pleaded guilty Thursday in Washington County Circuit Court to charges of sexually abusing a minor and producing child pornography.
Joseph Charles Peer, 57, pleaded guilty to three counts each of sexual abuse of a minor and producing child pornography and one count of sexual abuse of a minor as a continuing course of conduct.
The maximum penalties on those offenses total 135 years, Assistant State’s Attorney Brett Wilson told Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr., but the state is asking active prison time of 75 years.
In exchange for the plea, dozens of other related charges of child sexual abuse and making child pornography were to be dismissed.
Peer was accused of having committed sexual acts and making videos and images of a girl over a period of about five years, Wilson told Long.
The abuse came to light in 2011 when a co-worker of Peer’s was shown a pornographic image of a preteen girl while at Peer’s home, Wilson said. In December, the co-worker saw Peer in the company of a girl he believed was the same person as in the image and reported it to Hagerstown police, he said.
The girl was later interviewed at the Safe Place Child Advocacy Center and told investigators the abuse had been going on since 2006, according to the charging documents.
A search of Peer’s home resulted in the seizure of DVDs and computer storage equipment that was forensically examined for evidence of child pornography by an officer of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, Wilson told Long. The document produced by that examination was 2 1/2 inches thick, he said.
“He’s admitted his guilt. He’s been honest throughout,” said defense attorney Susan Lochbaum. “He’s ready to take his punishment. He knows it will be severe.”
Long ordered a presentence investigation and said he will impose Peer’s sentence in 60 to 90 days. A required mental health assessment will also be performed, Wilson said.
“I’m hoping that it helps my daughter ... that he stood up and manned up,” the victim’s mother said after the plea was accepted.
The girl has been undergoing counseling with Safe Place since the abuse came to light, the mother said.
“It’s a fabulous place,” the mother said. Her daughter is trying to put the abuse behind her and move on with her life, the mother said.
“She’s a tough cookie,” the mother said.