By Patsy R. Brumfield
OXFORD – Matthew Blake Whitt of Tupelo pleaded guilty Thursday to a one-count federal minor-sex charge.
Whitt, 25, appeared before Chief U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills in the Oxford U.S. District courthouse.
A former Lee County School District substitute teacher, Whitt was first indicted in January on two counts that he enticed a minor into sexual conduct to make photos to be transmitted over the Internet, and for using his cellphone to make the enticement pitches for sex with him that would constitute statutory rape and sexual battery under Mississippi law.
He faced up to life in prison if he’d been convicted on both those counts.
In exchange for his plea, the government agreed to his guilty plea on only one count – enticing a minor female for sex images.
Now, he faces five years to life in prison. The other, more serious count is expected to be dismissed when he is sentenced.
Deals for guilty pleas generally allow a defendant to admit to fewer charges, which carry less severe punishment than all the charges.
He still faces three Lee County charges of sex with a minor female, who was 15 when the alleged crimes occurred in 2012.
A District Attorney’s Office spokesman said recently the state prosecution awaits evaluation of the federal case, although he said the office intends to take the charges to court.
It will take several months before he is sentenced on the federal charge. The hearing date awaits completion of a report to guide Mills in deciding his punishment.