Couple convicted of child exploitation
A Georgetown County couple was convicted of sexual exploitation of two minors and unlawful conduct towards children Wednesday after a trial that lasted two days.
It took a jury about two hours of deliberations to find Michael Lee Cardwell. 42, and Sarah Denise Cardwell, 30, guilty of the charges.
They were both sentenced to five years in prison by Circuit Court Judge Edward Cottingham.
According to Sr. Asst. Solicitor Candice Lively, the prosecutor of the case, the couple was arrested after a video was found on a computer the couple had taken to be repaired in December, 2010.
Lively said when computer tech found the video he notified police.
The video, which was played for the jury during the trial, shows Michael Cardwell and the two children — a 6-year-old girl and 8-year-old boy — naked.
Although there was no physical contact between Cardwell and the children seen on the video, the behavior depicted “rose to the level of sexual exploitation,” Lively said.
Sarah Cardwell is not seen on the video but is heard “directing” what was taking place, said Lively.
The state says the video shows the children in acts of self gratification. However, attorney Reuben Goude who defended Mrs. Cardwell, says the kids were not doing that but were acting out scenes they saw on a Ultimate Fighting Championship Youtube video.
“Yes the video shows them naked, jumping up and down and acting ignorant,” Goude said, adding it was nothing illegal. He said in the state there is a nudist colony that allows children and their parents to be naked together.
“I can say nothing to my common sense..or my lawyer sense shows the kids simulating (gratification),” Goude said.
Lively said the children did testify during the trial.
She said the couple must serve at least 85 percent of their sentence.
Mr. Cardwell was represented by attorney Eric Fox.
By Scott Harper
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