WALLA WALLA -- A local man who pleaded guilty to five child-sex crimes that occurred last summer was sentenced Tuesday to more than two decades in prison.
Carl G. Bell Jr., 32, was ordered to serve a minimum of 23 years and three months -- the midpoint of the 240- to 318-month standard range he faced.
But Bell could be ordered to serve up to life. Before he's released, the state's Indeterminate Sentence Review Board will determine whether he should be incarcerated longer than his minimum term.
Bell pleaded guilty in May to child rape, sexual exploitation and possessing child pornography.
Walla Walla County Superior Court Judge Donald W. Schacht on Tuesday declined to go along with a prosecution recommendation of 20 years, the low end of the range, despite expressions of remorse by the defendant earlier in the hearing.
"I'm very sorry for everything," Bell said, blinking back tears.
His attorney, Richard Wernette, said 20 years is comparable to a sentence in some murder cases. Bell committed serious crimes, but the sentence would be serious, as well, Wernette said.
Schacht wasn't swayed.
He decided to follow the 279-month recommendation of Alison Smith, a community corrections officer with the Department of Corrections, who submitted a presentence investigation. Schacht cited the number of crimes Bell committed and his criminal background.
Schacht gave Bell credit for the 332 days he'd already served in the County Jail and placed him on community custody, a form of probation, with strict conditions after his release.
In a plea agreement with the prosecution, Bell pleaded guilty May 10 to one count of first-degree rape of a child, two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and two counts of first-degree possession of depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct (child pornography).
Walla Walla police said he had sexual intercourse with a preteen girl twice in June 2010 and once in August. He took a digital picture of one of the rapes, officials said.
Police said that also last summer, Bell started taking posed, nude pictures of the girl in Walla Walla, ostensibly to help her submit them to a modeling agency. The agency, however, existed only through an email account Bell created to receive the pictures.
In addition, Bell persuaded the girl to take seven pictures of a different girl in naked poses at a park in Waitsburg in late August, according to police. He also was suspected of trying to solicit a third girl to send nude pictures to the email address.
Officials reportedly obtained the digital images of the girls by serving a search warrant Aug. 31. Bell's cell phone, laptop computer and other electronic storage devices were seized for further investigation.
He was arrested and booked into the County Jail. He had been living in Waitsburg, officials said.
Bell initially was charged with 15 crimes -- three counts of first-degree rape of a child, two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and 10 counts of first-degree possession of depictions of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
But Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Joe Golden later added 16 counts of sexual exploitation. Bell then decided to accept the prosecution's offer and plead guilty to the five charges.
The others were dismissed.