Longtime Ketchikan resident and public official Jack Shay was sentenced Monday for multiple counts of possessing child pornography.
Referring to former city and borough mayor Jack Shay as a “monster loose in the community,” Superior Court Judge William Carey issued a sentence of 35 years in prison, with 17 to serve, marking the end of a high-profile child pornography case.
The 81-year-old Shay spoke publicly for the first time since his arrest on November 4th. He said he’s proud of much that he’s accomplished in his life.
“I have contributed a great deal to my community,” he said. “No person or entity can erase these accomplishments, or take them away from me. Now, however, I must take responsibility to all my actions. I’ve had a truly lamentable secret obsession for over 65 years. I was not able to control it.”
Shay, who said he at one time considered suicide, is working with a professional analyst. He said he was sexually abused as a child, which he believes to be the root what he calls his “mania.”
“Even though I feel that somehow a great burden has been lifted from me, I am truly remorseful,” he said. “I ask and am begging for forgiveness from all the powers and all the people. I also earnestly hope that the authorities will use all of their powers to stop the creation of this objectionable material, much of which is free on the Internet.”
While admitting his crime, Shay questioned the length of his sentence. He said it’s harsher than similar or worse crimes, and that others judged him prematurely because of his position in the community.
“They were abetted in their efforts by the prejudicial ravings of a former official, who, before guilt was established, went on, which evoked the specter of pogroms and the Holocaust,” he said. “Here in the United States of America, I had always believed that a person was presumed to be inn … oh, never mind.”
Prosecutor James Scott gave a history of the case, which started Nov. 4th, when Shay took a computer and printer to a local business for repairs. The business discovered images of child pornography, and contacted police.
Police got a search warrant for Shay’s home, and seized significantly more images. Scott said the vast majority was not clearly illegal, and therefore did not result in criminal charges.
“Mr. Shay’s collection ran the gamut from very violent disturbing stuff to not violent, not disturbing stuff, and it’s worth noting that his collection, counts one through 87 were illegal, Mr. Shay’s child pornography collection broadly defined, was huge, was enormous, goes back, it appears, many decades,” Scott said.
Shay eventually was charged with 91 counts of child pornography. The plea deal dropped most of those charges in exchange for a guilty plea to seven counts. Three of those stem from homemade videos that show Shay molesting prepubescent girls.
Scott said other videos found were disturbing, but not criminal.
“When Jack Shay went to ballet performance, he videotaped the pelvises of the underage performers,” he said. “When he went to swim meets, he focused on those areas of little girls’ bodies. When Jack Shay was grand marshal of our Fourth of July parade, he used the opportunity to videotape up girls’ skirts sitting on the cement curb.”
Scott said the psychological damage from molestation can last a person’s entire life. He said that while it is a harsh sentence for a first offender, it’s appropriate.
Shay’s attorney, Chris Boyette, said his client sincerely regrets his criminal actions.
“Over the period of the last 10 months or so, he’s really figured it out,” Boyette said. “He
recognizes that people were harmed by his action and feels quite a bit of remorse about it.”
Boyette said that most of the charges against Shay stem from images on the low end of the scale for crimes involving molestation. He said it’s clear from Shay’s overall collection that his client preferred less-graphic images.
Judge Carey said that collection was evidence of an unhealthy obsession. He said that when issuing a sentence, he considers the offender as well as the offense.
“In this case, I understand that Mr. Shay has a long record of public service in this community,” Carey said. “I’m a relative newcomer to the community and wasn’t here for much of that time. I consider it, but ultimately, today, it doesn’t matter a hell of a lot.”
Carey said the pattern of behavior and collection of material is so “appalling” that it’s difficult to consider any good Shay has done for the community.
Carey referred to “the horror that one or more mothers felt when they had to look at video documentation that was found in Mr. Shay’s resident and realized, ‘That’s my daughter. That’s our house.’”
Carey said he’s glad Shay is working with a professional in hopes of rehabilitation, but it’s a little late and doesn’t make much difference.
Alaska statutes allow sentences to be reduced by one third for good behavior. With 17 years to serve, Shay could be eligible for parole in about 12 years. He would be 93.
The judge, defense and prosecution agreed it’s likely that Shay will die in prison.
If he did survive and were released, he would face five years of probation, and would be required to register as a sex offender for 15 years.