A former employee of the Wyoming State Penitentiary on Tuesday pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography and could face at least six-and-a-half years imprisonment.

Nathan Lucas Heibeck of Rawlins entered the plea before Chief U.S. District Court Judge Scott Skavdahl in Casper, a week before he was scheduled to go to trial.

In exchange for Heibeck's plea, the federal government will dismiss one count of distribution of child pornography at his sentencing scheduled for Aug. 1, Skavdahl said.

Federal sentencing guidelines take into account a defendant's criminal history, which in Heibeck's case was minimal.

The guidelines also take into account the severity of the crime, and then factor other issues.

Besides the basic level of punishment for possession of child pornography, Heibeck was given credit for accepting responsibility.

However, other factors adding to the possible time of incarceration in this case included pornographic images of infants and toddlers on Heibeck's cell phones and images showing sadism, Skavdahl and Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Griswold said.

That could put Heibeck's possible incarceration from six-and-a-half years to eight years and one month.

However, that depends in part on what a federal probation officer reports and writes in a pre-sentence investigation.

The recommended prison time won't be known until the sentencing, and that's up to the judge.

Likewise, any restitution will not be known until then.

During the plea itself, Heibeck was accompanied by his federal public defender Laura Heinrich, who asked him what he did.

Heibeck was arrested in Rawlins on Nov. 22, five days after the federal grand jury handed down the indictment listing two counts:

Count one said Heibeck, from July 14, 2022, through Aug. 14, 2022, knowingly distributed child pornography "using means and facilities of interstate commerce, namely, the Internet and cellular telephone networks."

Count two said Heibeck on Aug. 18 knowingly possessed images of child pornography involving prepubescent minors, "and which had been shipped and transported using means and facilities of interstate commerce, namely, the Internet and cellular telephone networks" using Samsung cell phones made in Germany and Finland.

Skavdahl said possession of child pornography is punishable by up to 20 years imprisonment, up to a $250,000 fine, five years to lifetime supervised probation after release from custody, a $100 special assessment, a $5,000 special assessment pursuant to the Victims of Sex Trafficking Act of 2015, and up to a $17,000 special assessment and mandatory restitution of not less than $3,000 per requesting victims pursuant to the Amy, Vicky, and Andy Child Pornography Victims Assistance Act of 2018.

The indictment also said Heibeck would forfeit those phones if he is convicted.

However, the indictment did not discuss any details about the investigation.

He was released on a $25,000 bond during his arraignment on Nov. 30. He was released to his father and ordered to reside at his home in Rawlins.

He remains free on bond until his sentencing.

The government regards child pornography as a crime of violence because it involves brutal assaults on sometimes very young children who cannot consent to sexual activity.

Children's Advocacy Project Pinwheels for Abused Children

In 2008, Prevent Child Abuse America introduced the pinwheel as the new national symbol for child abuse prevention. Why? Because by its very nature, the pinwheel connotes playfulness, joy, and childhood. It has come to serve as a physical reminder of the great childhoods we want for all children.

More From K2 Radio