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Portage man sentenced to prison for child porn; points to shaman

August 24, 2018
Tou Yang

Yang

A Portage man received the mandatory minimum prison sentence for possession of child pornography after he was credited for cooperating with authorities.

Tou Yang, 34, appeared Thursday in Columbia County Circuit Court, where he entered a no-contest plea to one of 10 counts of possession of child pornography following a June 12 arrest. Yang was sentenced to three years in prison followed by two years of extended supervision.

“We were looking for a criminal history, but were unable to find any,” said Assistant District Attorney Mary Ellen Karst in Thursday’s hearing. Karst said that following the arrest, Yang cooperated with agents from the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation. The eventual full DCI report confirmed what Yang had told authorities.

DCI agents contacted Yang as part of a larger child exploitation investigation and according to the criminal complaint, he showed agents the electronics in his room. He had received a Dell laptop from his brother, he said and wiped its hard drive before rebooting it in early in 2018. In February or March, he said that he began using search terms like “kiddy porn,” and downloading files to a uTorrent folder, with subjects as young as 3 years old.

“Mr. Yang is Hmong and pretty active in the Hmong community,” said defense attorney Amanda Riek, prefacing that she did not believe anyone in the room would be in a place to fully understand his situation. His reason for doing what he did, Riek told the judge was that he “was under the spell of a shaman — it is a spirit that infects you.”

As a result of the supposed condition, Yang said that he was not in control of himself and did not remember doing those things.

Riek said she and her client had explored a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity or mental defect, but were unable to find an available expert for such an analysis.

“He does not believe what happened is an accurate representation of who he is,” Riek said. “I’ve known him for a limited amount of time, but he seems to be genuine about his explanation. I don’t know what law enforcement think about his explanation.”

Judge W. Andrew Voigt told Yang it was fortunate that “these things do not happen all the time,” and that he had never seen a prosecutor and defense attorney so apparently confident in a defendant’s honesty.

“Most telling is how open and honest you were when law enforcement showed up,” said Voigt. The judge described Yang’s cooperation as being at “lightning speed,” compared with the usual pace of legal proceedings, and noted the offending behavior took place during “a relatively short period.”

While acknowledging Yang’s forthcoming attitude toward law enforcement, Voigt pointed out that there are victims of child pornography, which is treated as a serious offense among those who perpetuate the practice.

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