A Fairview Heights man will serve time in prison and be on the sex offender registry for life after pursuing or engaging in sexual relationships with two teenage girls.
Joseph Gaither, 22, was sentenced Tuesday to two years in prison for possession of child pornography and four years for aggravated criminal sex abuse. The sentences are to be served concurrently, and Gaither will only have to serve 50 percent of his sentence. He will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
In exchange for a guilty plea, five counts of possession of child porn and one count of traveling to meet a minor were dismissed.
In January 2017, a 15-year-old girl told police that she and Gaither had formed a relationship from chatting on social media, according to the Fairview Heights Police Department. Gaither contacted her initially on Facebook, then they continued speaking on Snapchat.
Gaither arranged to meet with the girl and have a sexual relationship with her, police said. Anyone under the age of 18 can not legally consent to sex with an adult.
A month after he was charged with traveling to meet a minor and criminal sex abuse, Gaither was charged with seven counts of possession of child porn.
He went to the Fairview Heights Police Department to ask for help to get property back from an ex-girlfriend, the second girl in the case. When an officer found out the ex-girlfriend was only 16, police asked to inspect Gaither's phone, and he consented.
The officer found nude photos of the then-15-year-old on Gaither's phone, and he was arrested at the station.