A federal judge is expected to decide the punishment a child predator should receive Wednesday morning at a hearing in Texarkana’s federal courthouse downtown.
Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Susan Hickey listened to multiple witnesses testify about Nathan Karl Thomas’ obsession with child pornography and his abuse of two teen girls. Thomas, 25, pleaded guilty March 31, 2016, to two counts of receiving child pornography. His sentencing hearing began Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Susan Hickey in the Texarkana Division of the Western District of Arkansas.
A former girlfriend of Thomas’, Haidy Branson, 26, testified that she and Thomas realized they both had an interest in child pornography and incest while dating in high school in New Boston, Texas. Branson is currently serving a federal term of 21 years and 10 months for producing child porn in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas.
Branson admitted that her obession with child pornography led her to molest a male relative-only 2 or 3 years old-in November 2014. Branson shared videos she made of the crimes with Thomas, who she said she continued to share child pornography with after their dating relationship ceased.
At the time, Thomas was living in Lockesburg, Ark.
Branson said she and Thomas would swap images of child sexual abuse and that he sent her a photo of a teen girl’s thigh with razor cuts accompanied by a text message which said, “Look what I did.”
Missy Davison, Program Director at the Texarkana Children’s Advocacy Center, testified that she interviewed the 14-year-old girl depicted in the photo three times in November and December 2014, under questioning from Assisant U.S. Attorney Kyra Jenner. Davison said the girl was unwilling to give her the name of the man who repeatedly raped, sodomized and physically assaulted her but that she let his first name, Nathan, slip during their third meeting.
In videotaped interview excerpts played during Davison’s testimony, the teen describes horrific sexual and physical abuse by Thomas. The girl said she sent Thomas sexually graphic pictures and video of herself because she wanted him to care for her and because he became angry when she didn’t.
The girl said Thomas would punch her in the stomach often because he feared she was pregnant and that he enjoyed inflicting pain. The girl in the video said Thomas often sent her images of girls “from three months to 12 years old being raped,” and asked her how she felt about it.
The girl told Davison that she often felt sadness at the images Thomas sent her and that Thomas would threaten to “punish” her for her sympathy. Thomas encouraged and taught the girl how to find and share internet child pornography.
A woman, now 20, testified that she began getting text messages from Thomas when she was 12.
“He said it was a wrong number,” the woman testified. “But he kept texting me.”
As time passed, the woman, then a girl, began sending sexually explicit photos of herself to Thomas at his request. Just after her 14th birthday, Thomas came to the apartment complex where she lived with her mother and sexually assaulted her for the first time. The abuse continued and included rape and sodomy, the woman testified.
“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to have a normal relationship,” she said.
Michael Bishop, a prison inmate who once lived in the same pod as Thomas in the Bi-State Justice Center, testified that he heard Thomas say he wants to move to southeast Asia where he can molest children without fear of prison, under questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wulff.
Hickey is expected to hear arguments this morning from Jenner and Public Defender Bruce Eddy on the punishment Thomas should receive. He faces five to 20 years on each of two counts of receipt of child pornography and Hickey has the option of ordering consecutive sentences.
Thomas has been in the Bi-State jail since his arrest December 2014.