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By ANDREW SHEELER
Daily News Staff Writer
Judge William Carey’s courtroom was quiet Monday morning as John Shay — known to most as Jack — was led in by a guard. Shay’s son Steven Shay offered his dad some words of encouragement.
"Hey pops. Right behind you all the way.?You betcha," he said.
The courtroom gradually filled as the proceedings began. Shay had agreed to plead guilty to seven out of 91 child porn-related charges brought by the state. Shay was arrested on the child porn charges after a laptop he left to be repaired revealed a small portion of Shay’s allegedly large collection of child pornography.
As part of the plea agreement, Shay was sentenced to 35 years with 18 suspended. That means Shay will serve a maximum of 17 years in prison.?With good behavior, Shay could be out in 12 years.
Shay, a former city and borough mayor who was a sitting member of the Ketchikan City Council at the time of his arrest, sat at the defendant’s table wearing an orange jumpsuit and chains as Assistant District Attorney James Scott spoke.
Scott said the prison sentence for Shay, 81, amounted to a "death sentence...That’s appropriate for Mr.?Shay." Scott said Shay’s collection of pictures of children "ran the gamut," from erotic but legal to bordering on sadomasochistic in nature.
While he said there’s room for debate about what constitutes art and what makes for "lewd display," Scott said the photos for which Shay was charged clearly crossed the line.
The line was further crossed, Scott said, when Shay went from consumer to creator of child porn. City of Ketchikan Police reported that among the "thousands of hours" of video tape they searched during the investigation was footage of Shay reportedly fondling a prepubescent girl. At one point in the video, a nude Shay allegedly entered the shot. Police said Shay looked approximately 10 years younger in the video.
"Jack Shay made this pornography,"?Scott said.
After Scott, it was Shay’s attorney Chris Boyette’s turn to speak. Boyette said Shay’s arrest had served as "a real awakening in his life," that Shay was aware he had harmed people with his actions.
Boyette said Shay was singled out because of his public stature, that he was being made an example. Boyette pointed to the larger than normal bail amount set for Shay when he was arrested.
Scott said the bail was set high because Shay could afford it.
Like Scott, Boyette called Shay’s punishment a "death sentence."
Shay was next to speak, reading from a prepared statement.
"I am very proud of much of what I’ve done in my life," he began. His deep voice belied his small frame, and he spoke as if reciting a soliloquy. His years of dramatic and political experience were evident as he read. "Now, however, I must take responsibility for my actions."
"I’ve had a truly lamentable, secret obsession for over 65 years," Shay said. "I never asked for nor sought this lamentable malady." Even as he said he accepted responsibility, Shay criticized what he said were "prejudicial ravings of a former official" that followed his initial arrest. He did not specify who that official was.
"Here in the United States of America I had always believed that a person was presumed to be in—ah, never mind,"?he said.
Shay said he was pursuing counseling and intended to spend his remaining years bettering himself.
When it was finally time for the judge to speak, Carey dismissed Shay’s years of public service.
"It doesn’t matter a hell of a lot," he said. Carey said that for years, Shay was "essentially a monster in this community." He said that Shay’s pursuit and consumption of child pornography was the sort of act that "perpetuates the industry."
"This is what feeds the machine,"?Carey said.
Even as Carey accepted the plea deal, he said Shay’s apparent remorse was "a little late, but better late than never."
Attending the hearing were Lanny and Martha Bryan, long-time friends of Shay.
"This is not the Jack Shay we know,"?said Martha after the hearing, "It’s like there’s two people. John W. Shay we don’t know and Jack Shay we’ve known and loved all these years and trusted."
Both of the Bryans said they had nothing but respect for Shay, even as Martha said, "But we are a nation of laws."
As Shay was escorted from the courtroom, Martha spoke to him.
"Jack, we love you. I am going to write to you very soon. God bless you. I loved what you had to say. Yes. God bless you, Jack."
Jack turned around and took a bow before being escorted away.