Lawrence man rejects plea offer for 9 years in child pornography case, plans for trial and could face life in prison if convicted

Michael William Wicks is pictured at a plea hearing on Sept. 29, 2023, in Douglas County District Court.

A Lawrence man rejected a plea agreement at the last minute on Friday that would have put him in prison for just over nine years on child pornography charges, and he intends to go to trial, possibly facing a life sentence if convicted.

The man, Michael William Wicks, 53, is charged in Douglas County District Court with felony counts of sexual exploitation of a child by promoting a performance of a child under the age of 14 and aggravated internet trading in child pornography, according to charging documents. The sexual exploitation of a child is charged as an off-grid felony, which could result in life in prison. The charges relate to an incident on May 14, 2022.

Wicks was scheduled to enter a plea on Friday. His attorney, Hatem Chahine, said that the state, represented by Deputy District Attorney Joshua Seiden, had offered a plea agreement that reduced the off-grid felony to three midlevel felony offenses in the Kansas sentencing guidelines and that Wicks had agreed to the offer and signed the paperwork, but just before Friday’s hearing Wicks told Chahine he had changed his mind and wanted to go to trial.

The off-grid felony falls under a Kansas statute commonly known as “Jessica’s Law,” which specifies that if a defendant is over the age of 18 and commits a sexual offense against a juvenile under 14 the defendant is to be sentenced to life in prison without the eligibility for parole for a period of either 25 or 40 years to be determined by the sentencing judge. The defendant is then subject to lifetime parole.

Chahine said that the state’s offer could have resulted in a sentence of 110 months, or just over nine years, and that number was factoring in that the sentence would have been doubled since the conviction would have classified Wicks as a persistent sex offender after a 2020 conviction in Jefferson County for sexual exploitation of a child.

Wicks had entered into the Independent Criminal Assessment process in May with the state and a mediator to negotiate the plea deal, as the Journal-World reported.

Judge Sally Pokorny advised Wicks that the plea agreement’s terms were far more favorable than if he is convicted of the charges at trial, to which Wicks said he understood. Pokorny then set a trial date for Feb. 26, 2024.

Wicks is currently free on a $100,000 bond.


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