Prison Time For Viewing Porn?

Why did one teenager face 90 years in jail for viewing porn?

ByABC News
January 10, 2007, 2:31 PM

Jan. 12, 2007— -- Sixteen-year-old Matthew Bandy was about as normal a teenager as you could find. He actually liked hanging out with his family.

"He was a happy-go-lucky kid," said his mother, Jeannie Bandy. "Very personable, and big-hearted. I sound like a boastful mom, but I guess the biggest thing is that he could always make me laugh."

"We went on vacations and had a lot of fun together," Matthew said. "I just enjoyed the life I was living. But after I was accused, everything changed."

What was Matthew Bandy accused of? Jeannie and Greg Bandy were shocked to discover that their son was charged with possession of child pornography.

One December morning two years ago, Matthew's life took a dramatic turn. In an exclusive interview with "20/20," the Bandy family reveals how the world as they knew it came crumbling down, and how Matthew's life has since changed.

It has been two years since police officers stood at the doorstep of the Bandy home with a search warrant bearing a devastating charge -- possession of child pornography.

"It was 6 a.m. It was still darkthere was this pounding at the door," Jeannie Bandy said. "I was petrified."

Police officers stormed into the house with guns pointed. "The first thing I thought was, someone's trying to break in our house," Matthew said. "And then there [were] police officers with guns pointed at me, telling me to get downstairs."

Greg Bandy was handed the search warrant and informed that the central suspect was Matthew. According to the warrant, nine images of young girls in suggestive poses were found on the Bandy family computer. Yahoo monitors chat rooms for suspicious content and reported that child porn was uploaded from the computer at the Bandys' home address.

"When they asked me have you ever looked up or uploaded or downloaded erotic images of minors, I was just taken aback andI said, 'No,'" says Matthew.

Nevertheless, Matthew did have an embarrassing confession. He had been sneaking peaks at adult erotic photos on the family computer. "I got the Web site from a bunch of friends at school. [It was] just adult pornographyPlayboy-like images."

Difficult to admit, but not illegal -- or so it seemed. Still, it didn't look good for Matt, as police confiscated the computer and left the house that December day. A family was shattered.

"I still remember when they were cleaning up and leaving and of course I was still in my pajamas and my bathrobe and my fuzzy slippers," Jeannie Bandy said. "I said, 'What do we do now? Should I contact a lawyer?' [The police officer] said, 'Well, they are felonies that the state takes very serious.'"

The Bandys would soon find out just how serious the charges against Matthew were. The family hired Ed Novak, a well-respected attorney from a large law firm in downtown Phoenix.

"20/20" correspondent Jim Avila asked Novak what the family was up against.

"We faced 10 years per count, there were nine counts," said Novak. "If Matt was convicted, those sentences would have to be served consecutively. In other words, he would have been sentenced to 90 years in prison. He would have served time until he died."

Greg and Jeannie Bandy knew their son well. They were shocked at the serious charges against him and frightened by the prospect of such a serious sentence.

"He's never done any drugs," Greg said. "He never drank a drop of alcohol. He's never been a problem, never stayed out late and gotten into trouble or anything like that."