Justice has been slow for a former Town of Smithfield employee charged with viewing child pornography at work.
Last week, the case against Paul Hansen Hulth, 58, of Norris Road, Clayton, was continued to Aug. 3, which would mark nearly five years after his 2010 arrest. Hulth faces 10 felony counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, and he could serve up to 20 years in prison for each count if convicted.
Several factors, including the involvement of expert witnesses and the sensitive nature of the evidence, have held up the case, said Paul Jackson, an assistant district attorney in Johnston County.
“It’s a complicated case,” Jackson said. “There are multiple experts involved, and we are waiting for the defense’s experts to complete additional examination of the computer.”
Even before Hulth’s arrest, the case against him moved slowly.
Smithfield police began investigating Hulth in April 2009 after town employees found an “inappropriate” picture of a girl in the office printer, police reported. The investigation took 16 months before police arrested Hulth on Aug. 25, 2010. At the time, Smithfield Police Lt. Keith Powell said the charges took so long because police had to wait for the State Bureau of Investigation crime lab to return the computer.
Hulth was an engineering technician at Smithfield’s operations center. In May 2009, he retired after 21 years with the town.
According to arrest reports, Hulth’s work computer contained videos and images depicting children under 10-years-old engaged in sexual acts with adult men and other children. One video involved a 2-year-old girl, reports state.
Hulth spent five days in the Johnston County jail under a $400,000 bond before a judge agreed to lower the bond to $50,000, records show. Hulth’s parents posted his bail using a deed of trust to their home and land in Smithfield, records show. Both parents have since passed away.
As prosecutor for the case, Jackson sent a plea offer in December 2010 to Hulth’s attorney, Jimmy Lawrence of Smithfield, records hows. If Hulth would plea guilty to all counts, Jackson offered to consolidate the charges into no more than five counts and not seek further indictments from evidence on the computer, records show.
That deal remains open until a trial date is set for the case, according to the letter.