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MADISON - Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen announced today that Benjamin Mercer was sentenced to serve one year in the Fond du Lac County Jail as a condition of eight years of probation, following his convictions on fourteen counts of possession of child pornography, committed on May 28, 2004. Mercer was found guilty of those charges on October 17, 2007, after a nine-day jury trial.
At the time of his offenses, Mercer was employed as the Director of Human Resources for the City of Fond du Lac. He used his computer at his city office to search the Internet for a wide variety of pornography and erotica, including child erotica and pornography. Evidence at trial established that Mercer routinely used Internet search terms like "Lolita" and "preteen" to search for and access Internet content at his work computer. Computer forensic evaluation of Mercer's work computer and evidence preserved by the City of Fond du Lac's computer network monitoring program formed the basis for the charges.
At the sentencing hearing, the defendant continued to maintain that he had not intentionally accessed or viewed child pornography. The court rejected that claim and confirmed that the evidence at trial had clearly established Mercer's guilt. In issuing the sentence, the court remarked on the serious nature of the offenses and the need for a significant period of incarceration as punishment for Mercer and to deter other like-minded persons.
The case was investigated by agents of the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation at the request of the City of Fond du Lac Police Department. Assistant Attorney General Michael Schaefer represented the state as a special prosecutor for Fond du Lac County. Fond du Lac County Judge Dale L. English presided over the trial and sentencing.