Putnam County lawyer pleads guilty to child pornography

Stephen Craig Sluss, 59, of Scott Depot entered a guilty plea Monday to receiving child pornography. (WCHS/WVAH)

A Putnam County lawyer and former assistant prosecutor in Kanawha County pleaded guilty Monday to a child pornography crime, U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart said.

Stephen Craig Sluss, 59, of Scott Depot entered a guilty plea to receiving child pornography.

According to a news release from Stuart, Sluss admitted that on April 1, 2017, he received videos of prepubescent minors engaged in sex acts. Sluss received the videos via the internet, the release said. An investigation that began May 2017 from the West Virginia State Police, the West Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and the Department of Homeland Security–Homeland Security Investigations revealed that Sluss was using a web-based chatting service to access and download child pornography.

A trooper with the Crimes Against Child Unit wrote in a criminal complaint that on or about April 1, Sluss used the screen name "mckicker40" to receive child pornography on an online group chat site called ChatStep. On May 13, ChatStep alerted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that the user "mckicker40" had uploaded an image of possible child pornography.

The trooper reviewed the image on May 22, 2017, and wrote in the complaint that the image depicts a minor female, about 12 to 15 years old, in a sexual position.

An IP address provided by Suddenlink, indicated that the subscriber was Sluss.

Sluss also admitted Monday to possessing more than 600 images and videos of minors engaged in sex acts, and that some of those images involved sadistic conduct, the release said.

During a search of Sluss’ computer hard drives, an analyst allegedly discovered that Sluss knowingly received other child pornography videos of young girls between 5 and 7 years old.

Sluss served more than 20 years as a Kanawha County employee, serving in various positions including chief counsel to the assessor and county manager. He also served in the House of Delegates and as a Mineral County commissioner in the 1980s.

“I commend the law enforcement officers dedicated to investigating these disgusting crimes, as well as the members of my team who prosecute these cases. Protecting our children from predators is some of the most difficult and important work we do,” Stuart said.

Sluss faces at least five years and up to 20 years in federal prison. He will be sentenced July 19. Upon his release from prison, he will be required to serve a term of supervised release of at least five years and up to life, the release said. Sluss will also be required to register as a sex offender.

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