By Mike Gangloff, The Roanoke Times
PULASKI — Kimberly Breeden Brugh broke into tears Wednesday as she tried to explain the inexplicable.
Testifying from a wheelchair at her sentencing hearing in Pulaski County Circuit Court, Brugh, 49, of Dublin, said she’d made child pornography to win the affection of a man she’d met online.
“I was under the influence of so much pain medicine I lost my mind,” Brugh told Judge Brad Finch. Asking for a punishment lighter than the one suggested by sentencing guidelines — which recommended a prison term between 10 years to 17 years and five months — Brugh apologized tearfully and repeatedly, with her family watching from the spectator benches, some crying as well.
“I’ll never touch a cellphone again,” Brugh said. “I never want to see the internet again. … Give me a chance to prove to you I’m not that person.”
Finch turned down defense attorney Jimmy Turk’s request for house arrest and sentenced Brugh to 65 years in prison — to be suspended after she served 15 years. The judge said that Brugh is never to be allowed to have contact with anyone under the age of 18 ever again. After her time in prison, she must register as a sex offender and will be supervised by the probation office for an indefinite period of time, Finch said.
Brugh had pleaded guilty in January to 13 felonies related to child pornography and sexual battery, and faced up to 175 years in prison. Turk, of Radford, argued that though two of Brugh’s convictions each carried five-year minimum prison terms, Virginia law allowed Finch to let the sentences run concurrently, meaning at the same time. Turk also argued that Finch could impose house arrest instead of prison time.
Amid the defense arguments was the suggestion that Brugh’s health is so poor that she might not survive prison, whatever the length of her sentence.
Brugh and her mother, Joyce Brown, testified that Brugh has been paralyzed from the waist down since a 1988 vehicle crash. Brown said that Brugh had diseases that affected her bones and heart, among other problems. Brugh and her mother testified that in the year since Brugh was arrested and jailed, she had been hospitalized seven times, including after breaking both legs in a fall. The family has incurred medical bills of more than $100,000 so far, Brown said.
Brown said that she’d had to pay $8,000 to the New River Valley Regional Jail, which she said was especially difficult since her annual income was only $12,000.
The time since Brugh’s crimes were discovered has been “like living in a nightmare,” Brown testified.
Two years ago, Brugh said, she pursued an online relationship with a man who she thought lived in West Virginia — and who urged her to make and send him sexual videos of children.
Brugh said that the man was “a smooth talker” and convinced her to make sexual videos of a 4-year-old girl and send them to him. She said she also sent him other child pornography that she found online but said that when she downloaded the images herself, it was by mistake.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Justin Griffith said that if that was so, it was a mistake Brugh made more than 100 times.
Describing some of the acts that Brugh made or sent videos of, Griffith said it was “despicable” that Brugh reduced a child “to an internet sex prop.”
“She has lost her right to be free in society,” Griffith said. He asked Finch to impose a sentence severe enough to deter others drawn to child pornography.
Finch said that he recognized Brugh’s health problems and the hardships of her family, but that these did not change the nature of her crimes.
The judge imposed five-year sentences for each conviction: one count of aggravated sexual battery; two counts of producing child pornography; one count of possessing child pornography, first offense; and nine counts possessing child pornography, subsequent offense.
Finch said the prison terms would run consecutively.