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Judge approves deal for hockey player in sex video case

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- A Clay County judge upheld a plea deal that spares a former junior hockey player from sex offender registration requirements after the player pleaded guilty in a teenage sex tape scandal that led to a three-count conviction on ...

MOORHEAD, Minn. -- A Clay County judge upheld a plea deal that spares a former junior hockey player from sex offender registration requirements after the player pleaded guilty in a teenage sex tape scandal that led to a three-count conviction on child pornography charges.

At a hearing Monday in Clay County District Court, Thomas Ryan Carey of Moorhead acknowledged his part in the February 2014 incident that led to one of Clay County's most contentious criminal cases in recent memory.

"I take full responsibility for my role in this matter," Carey said in court. "I look forward to moving on with my life."

Carey and another man, Brandon Nicholas Smith of Castaic, Calif., pleaded guilty in late November to creating, possessing and distributing child pornography that featured them in sex acts with a then-15-year-old girl at a Moorhead hotel room.

Prosecutors said the men, who at the time were players for the Lincoln (Neb.) Stars, had sex with the girl at their hotel after a hockey game against the Fargo Force.

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The men took the images, then sent them on to others, including another hockey player, prosecutors said.

The charges, filed in June 2014, sparked heated debates both in court filings and in the court of public opinion, as defense attorneys sought to expose the girl's sex life to scrutiny, describing her as the aggressor in the case who sought out the men with nude images on social media.

Defense attorneys claimed the 15-year-old, out to make a conquest of at least one member of each team in the U.S. Hockey League, had claimed to Carey and Smith that she was 16, and had been banned from Fargo's Scheels Arena because of her behavior.

In Minnesota, mistake of age is not a legal defense against an accusation of child pornography. Nor can children under 18 give consent to be featured in a pornographic performance.

The battle of words on both sides grew so fierce that Judge Michael Fritz issued a gag order barring prosecutors and defense attorneys from talking about the case outside the courtroom.

Child pornography convictions in Minnesota usually carry with them the requirement to register as a sex offender, as well as time behind bars.

Instead, the plea deal struck for both men spares them the sex offender registry requirement and gives them a 45-day jail sentence. Carey reported to the Clay County Jail in late November to start serving his term via work release.

Fritz accepted both Carey and Smith's guilty pleas at a Nov. 24 hearing, but withheld approval of the plea deal pending the results of a standard and confidential presentence investigation.

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The prosecution and defense said Monday that the investigation concluded Carey's sentence was appropriate.

Carey also was sentenced to 10 years of supervised probation. After successfully completing probation, his three felony convictions will be dismissed.

A jail official said Carey was released Dec. 23 with credit for 30 days served. Under Minnesota law, offenders typically serve about two-thirds of their sentence.

Prosecutor Pam Harris and defense attorney Jade Rosenfeldt declined to comment, citing the ongoing gag order.

Smith's sentencing is set for Thursday.

Carey and his parents declined comment for this story.

Related Topics: HOCKEY
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