RUTHERFORDTON— Former school teacher, William “Travis” Toms, pled no contest to “dissemination of obscenity” in a plea agreement covering his family offered by District Attorney Ted Bell. The original case involved two former R-S Central High School teachers (Travis and Rebecca Toms) and their son in sharing salacious images of two underage girls.
Bell, who campaigned on “no plea deal fire sales,” reduced the felony charge for Travis Toms, dropped the case against Toms’ son who was a minor at the time of the incident, and reduced charges for Rebecca Toms. No active jail time will be served by any of the family.
- Travis Toms was sentenced upto 17 months in jail. However, that was suspended to two years probation – 1 year supervised and 1 year unsupervised for a reduced felony of “dissemination of obscenity.” Travis Toms originally was charged with two counts of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor, two counts accessory before the fact and one count common law obstruction of justice. Toms will not be required to register as a sex offender.
- Rebecca Toms pled no contest Thursday afternoon to a misdemeanor “resisting a public officer” a reduction of the original charge of “common law obstruction of justice” for lying to law enforcement. Rebecca Toms sentence of 30 days was suspended to a year’s unsupervised probation.
- Travis Toms’ son, a minor when charged with two counts of “second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor” had his case dismissed.
A “No Contact” order with the victim and her family was ordered for the Toms family.
Events leading up to the plea agreement included testimony from law enforcement officer Chris Lovelace who admitted he had never entered the thumb drive with the downloaded photos to the evidence custodian. There was no established unbroken chain of custody.
Upon further questioning by defense attorney Daniel Talbert, Lovelace admitted the thumbdrive handling had not followed protocol since the evidence had not been placed in a sealed envelope, dated and labeled but instead had been placed in a locked file cabinet of his office. Lovelace answered Talbert’s question of how long he had been in law enforcement with: 25 years.
State Bureau of Investigation Special Agent William Meadows whose cyber computer crime specialty includes extraction of data from cell phones testified how data from the two phones was downloaded on a Blu-Ray disc and transferred to a thumbdrive. Meadows testified that he had recorded the phone’s identification numbers and was certain of his analysis.
There were many objections to the admissibility of the evidence without the jury being present. Conferences between the lawyers and Judge Peter Knight kept the jury out of the courtroom for a good part of the afternoon.
The plea deal was struck late in the day. Other factors to be considered could have been the lengthy wait to bring the case to trial, the cancellation of two additional trials for the other two family members and their possible long wait times, the possibility of jail time should the jury find Travis Toms guilty and public opinion of an overcharged high profile case that could have easily been lost.
“It was a No Contest plea – this is different than a Guilty plea. There is no active time, no sexual offender registration requirement, no fines, no community service, and no classes. The Toms family felt it was in their best interest to accept the plea that was finally offered after we were able to try the case in front of a jury. The trial exposed some of State’s weaknesses and helped us finally reach a reasonable resolution. While it was not a “homerun” for the Toms family, it certainly allowed them to round the bases and get “home” and stay there without the risk of striking out in front of jury. These cases are difficult for everyone involved. It simply was too sweet a plea offer to reject with the substantial risk involved if an adverse verdict would have been returned. The Toms are good people that look forward to putting this incident behind them,” said Daniel Talbert.