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Former Brevard principal pleads guilty in child porn case

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – A former Brevard County principal pleaded guilty in federal court to knowingly receiving child pornography.

Ricky Sheppard, 59, is accused of having thousands of child porn videos on his computer, including photos of his students.

"Mr. Sheppard has entered a plea of guilty of one count of receipt of child pornography," said James Smith, Sheppard's attorney. "I want to be very clear about this: nothing that Mr. Sheppard admitted to today involved any contact whatsoever with any children at all."

Sheppard worked at Spessard Holland Elementary. A digital forensic specialist with the Brevard County Sheriff's Office testified in July that he had discovered hundreds of images of child pornography as well as thousands of videos depicting child pornography on Sheppard's two desktop computers.

Smith said Sheppard did not use his position as an educator to get close to children.

"There is no indication that he did anything wrong while he was a teacher or principal in the school system," said Smith. "Mr. Sheppard is not here today because of any accusations that he did anything wrong to any of the students in the school system."

Sheppard was released on bond in the custody of his sister in July, under conditions including no internet, no computers and no contact with children without a responsible adult present.

Sheppard was also forced to wear at GPS monitoring bracelet.

Brevard County Sheriff Wayve Ivey called Sheppard "demented" after his arrest.

"The Sheriff, while I respect what he does, is in no position to make that sort of assessment or judgment," said Smith. "And what I would simply say is a may who's willing to admit to an offense like this is a man who's taken responsibility for his actions. And that's far from the definition of someone who's demented."

News 6 anchor Erik von Ancken asked Smith, "You don't find this crime, considering Mr. Sheppard's position, particularly disturbing?"

"I can understand why citizens would be concerned," answered Smith. "But again I would ask citizens to keep in mind Mr. Sheppard has pleaded guilty to a crime that does not involved contact with any children, there's no indication that he did so."

The Brevard County school district said Sheppard was reprimanded in 1999 when he was a teacher at Gemini Elementary school for showering a 6-year-old boy with gifts and making inappropriate comments to him.

The judge on Tuesday accepted Sheppard's guilty plea, but can only recommend it to a district judge, who will then likely accept the plea and order Sheppard be taken into custody. Until then, Sheppard remains free on bond wearing a GPS tracking bracelet.

Sheppard is expected to be sentenced in October. He's facing a minimum of 5 years in prison and a maximum of 20 years with up to a $250,000 fine. Smith said the plea deal included a motion for a lesser sentence.

"Does Mr. Sheppard need help?" asked von Ancken.

"Mr. Sheppard needs compassion and justice," answered Smith. "And we're confident that's what he's going to get."


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