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April 03, 2013

LITTLE ROCK - A Malvern man arrested by agents from the Attorney Generals Office last year was sentenced to 164 years in prison today after being found guilty by a Hot Spring County jury of 20 felony child-pornography counts, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced.

The jury sentenced Tom Buck Steele, 60, of Malvern to 10 years in prison on each of two counts and eight years in prison on each of the remaining 18 counts, with sentences to run consecutively. Those sentences total 164 years. Additionally, he was fined $56,000.

Jurors deliberated for about an hour before finding Steele guilty on all charges of distributing, possessing, or viewing matter depicting sexually explicit conduct involving a child. Hot Spring County Circuit Judge Chris Williams presided over the two-day trial.

"We commend jurors for their time and attention in reaching this conviction and handing down an appropriate punishment for these heinous crimes against our children," McDaniel said. "Cooperative efforts among our office and law enforcement agencies in Hot Spring County led to this conviction. We will continue to conduct statewide investigations against those who use the Internet to harm our most vulnerable citizens."

It was the first trial conducted by the Attorney Generals Cyber Crimes Unit, which launched in June 2011. Others convicted following their arrests by the Attorney Generals Office had pleaded guilty to the charges against them.

Steele, however, argued that he was innocent. Jurors disagreed.

Steele was taken into custody immediately and is being held in the Hot Spring County Detention Center awaiting transfer to the Arkansas Department of Correction. Williams denied Steeles request to be freed on bond while the verdict is on appeal.

Steele will be required to register as a sex offender.

Agents with the Attorney Generals Cyber Crimes Unit began investigating Steele in 2011 after suspecting that child pornography was being possessed at his residence, 1643 Henderson Road, in Malvern.

Agents seized two desktop computers from the residence when executing a search warrant. A forensic examination of those computers at the Cyber Crimes Units Forensic Lab in Little Rock showed Steele to be in possession of dozens of images of child pornography.