Two Cases. Similar Facts. Does celebrity matter?

Most people have a perception that being a celebrity means lighter sentences than non-celebrities when they get in trouble. Soon, we’ll get to see if that holds true with two local, central Ohio cases, that are similar. One case involves a non-celebrity, the other involves a local TV celebrity.

The first case involves Brian Eley. He was indicted by the Delaware County Grand Jury in March 2019 on 16 counts of illegal use of a minor in a nudity-oriented material or performance – a/k/a child pornography. Each is a second degree felony. He also reportedly had over 800 pages of fictionalized pedophilia fantasy writings. Local media reported on his indictment.

A judge set Brian Eley’s bond at $750,000 and he remained in jail as his case proceeded. On January 23, 2020, Brian Eley entered guilty pleas to 10 of the 16 child pornography counts. He was sentenced to 8 years in prison and is designated as a Tier II Sex Offender which will require him to register, in person with the sheriff’s office, every 180 days for the next 25 years.

The second case involves central Ohio TV personality, Mike Davis – a former meteorologist with 10TV News. He spent over 30 years on TV in central Ohio bringing the weather forecasts to a generation of news watchers.

In September 2019 he was arrested for a single count of pandering sexually-oriented material involving a minor, a second degree felony. His arraignment was held the next day and he received a $25,000 cash and $25,000 appearance bond. He paid $2,500 to a bondsman and he walked out of jail.

The Franklin County Grand Jury subsequently returned a 4 count indictment, all counts involving child pornography – 3 counts of pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor, all second degree felonies, and 1 count of possession of sexually oriented matter involving a minor, a fourth degree felony. He was arraigned on the new charges, entering not guilty pleas, and the media covered and live-streamed his arraignment.

It was eventually reported that he had over 15,000 images of child pornography. At a press conference the county prosecutor said that only the four most egregious images were selected for indictment. (https://prosecutor.franklincountyohio.gov/press-releases/1404) His bond remained the same, $25,000, and he remained free.

On January 23, 2020, his attorney filed a motion specifically indicating it is his intent to change his plea to guilty to all 4 counts of child pornography and for screening for admission into a Community Based Correctional Facility (CBCF). The memorandum outlines other cases, in Franklin County, involving similar crimes and their sentences, including other notable cases, where defendants received community control in child pornography cases.

Mike Davis has over 15,000 images of child pornography, is indicted on only 4 counts, and is free on a $25,000 bond. Brian Eley is indicted on 16 counts of child pornography and sits in jail on $750,000 bond. On the same day Brian Eley pleads guilty to 10 counts and is sentenced to 8 years in prison, Mike Davis’ attorney files a motion seeking admission to a CBCF and for probation.

Mike Davis’ attorney does a great job outlining the reasons he should be sent to a CBCF and placed on probation (read the memo). But Brian Eley’s attorney also did a great job of outlining the reasons he should have been placed on probation (read the memo).

There are other factors in sentencing but these cases are more similar than not. The two counties are adjacent to each other there is a significant population difference between the two counties but both have Republican county prosecutors. The judge in Mike Davis’ case is a Democrat while the judge in Brian Eley’s case is a Republican. Both judges have been on the bench for a year. There is a 30 year age difference between the two defendants but neither appears to have a criminal history. Neither is alleged to have had any inappropriate physical contact with a minor child. Brian Eley had previously voluntarily sought counseling for pedophilic urges while Mike Davis only engaged in counseling once he was arrested.

Mike Davis will have a sex offender designation, like Brian Eley. But, will Mike Davis, a local TV celebrity, with over 15,000 child pornography images, be placed on probation, while Brian Eley sits in prison for 8 years?

What the Franklin County court will do remains to be seen.