Gibsone

Blair Gibsone was sentenced to 90 days in jail Monday. He pleaded guilty last year to sexual exploitation of a child, a class 3 felony, after police found images of child pornography on his phone.

A man who in December pleaded guilty to sexual exploitation of a child, a class 3 felony, in exchange for a probationary sentence received one Monday, albeit with a required 90 days served in the Pitkin County Jail.

The presentence investigation, or PSI, report prepared by the local probation department, however, had recommended a 30-day jail term for Blair Gibsone, 48 — a number not disputed by the prosecution.

“I do completely agree with the PSI in regards to its recommendation,” Deputy District Attorney Don Nottingham said, adding “I certainly don’t mean to minimize it anyway.”

Gibsone was arrested June 22 on two felony charges related to child pornography after telling a female friend via Facebook Messenger that he was aroused by a young girl — an exchange that motivated the woman to approach Aspen police about the interaction on June 17.

Later that week, she engaged him in another conversation via Facebook under police supervision, which lasted about six-and-a-half hours. During that second conversation, Gibsone explicitly detailed sexual encounters he’d had with a young girl he said he babysat — encounters which, it turned out, were sordid fantasies. He later told police he had never done any babysitting.

Indeed, no investigation could find any evidence that Gibsone had in fact ever done any babysitting, or that there had ever been any real-world encounters with anyone under age. 

“The facts that started off this investigation were much more troubling,” Nottingham said. “I wouldn’t be in any way agreeing with a probation sentence.”

Rather, an executed search warrant yielded a smartphone, laptop, computer tablet and flash drives — and more than 20 pornographic images of children were found on the smartphone alone.

Seldin, for his part, was not convinced that possession of child pornography is a victimless crime and said as much in the courtroom when explaining his sentencing decision.

“The underlying concern with that offense is it leads to the victimization of children everywhere. To the extent that child pornography is distributed over the internet today, the victim — the child — could be anywhere in the world,” he said. “The offense knows no boundaries in that regard.”

Additionally, because Gibsone is a New Zealand resident who will likely be deported, Seldin acknowledged that it’s unknown if his full probationary sentence will in fact be served, as to what extent New Zealand authorities would enforce it is unknown.

At the mention of deportation, Gibsone’s head dropped into his hands.

“I said goodbye to my dog,” he told police in attendance in the courtroom before his sentencing hearing Monday afternoon. “Mr. Watson’s my dog. I left the house this morning, I was just bawling.”

Nottingham, too, wasn’t exactly sure what Gibsone’s future would look like in New Zealand, though he said he had been in contact with the country’s authorities.

“I have been contacted by New Zealand authorities … to make sure he would comply with their registration requirements, so that is on their radar,” he said. “It sounds like he would have to register there, as well.”

Gibsone does have to register on the national sex offender registry in the United States. 

When addressing the court, Gibsone reiterated his remorse for the situation and his claims, which he’s made before, that he has no recollection of the scenario that’s made him a convicted felon.

“I’ve spent the last eight months — excuse me for my state at the moment; I haven't been sleeping very well  — in self punishment,” he said, acknowledging that several deaths in his family had led to an alcohol problem that he’s been addressing. “I’m not completely conscious of what actually happened; this has never actually happened before, and this has just devastated me. I haven’t drunk; I’ve tried to be as positive as I can and looking forward to my life, and I’ve organized a lot of things to be able to walk back into a lot of things back in New Zealand.”

Seldin spoke outright of his skepticism of Gibsone’s claims that he has no recollection whatsoever of his possession of child pornography.

“I understand that you believe this all happened while you were blacked out, but be that as it may, the court finds, frankly, finds that a little difficult to accept,” he told Gibsone. “This material to be on your phone, you would have no knowledge of it except when you’re drunk … Anyhow, the court is going to include as a condition of probation 90 days of jail. Thirty days in jail is the sort of thing that people get for far less serious offenses in my opinion. That's misdemeanor type stuff.”

That sentence, he did say, had more to do with the offense itself than Gibsone’s character. The defense, prosecution and judge all agreed that Gibsone is a good candidate for probation and highly unlikely to become a repeat offender.

He was taken into custody immediately after sentencing and received two days of credit for time served. Whether he will actually be deported remains to be seen and will be the decision of immigration authorities, not Pitkin County. 

Megan Tackett is a reporter for the Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at megan@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @MeganTackett10.