Reed City man possessed hundreds of images of child porn

Confessed to possessing hundreds of images   

Andrew C. Wernette

Andrew C. Wernette

REED CITY — A Reed City man admitted to possessing hundreds of images of child pornography during a hearing in court and now awaits sentencing.

Andrew C. Wernette appeared, via Zoom, before Judge Scott Hill-Kennedy on Friday, Feb. 26 for a settlement conference hearing.

Wernette, 39, was charged with two counts of aggravated child sexually abusive activity; two counts of using a computer to commit a crime; two counts of possession of a non-narcotic; and single counts of aggravated distributing or promoting child sexually abusive activity; distributing or promoting child sexually abusive activity; aggravated possession of child sexually abusive material; child abusive commercial activity; maintaining a drug house; and delivery/manufacturing of a non-narcotic.

The Michigan Attorney General’s Office was assigned to prosecute Wernette’s case in Osceola County’s 49th Circuit Court.

During Friday’s hearing, Hill-Kennedy reviewed terms of a plea deal the AG’s Office offered Wernette, who attended the hearing from the Mecosta County Jail.

Per the agreement, Wernette would plead guilty to two counts of aggravated child sexually abusive activity; two counts of possession of a controlled substance-analogues; and single counts of aggravated distributing or promoting child sexually abusive activity; distributing or promoting child sexually abusive activity; larceny in a building; and maintaining a drug house.

In exchange for a guilty plea, the AG’s Office would dismiss the remaining charges.

The judge asked Wernette if he understood the terms of the plea agreement and if it was his intention to enter a guilty plea.

“Yes sir,” Wernette replied.

Prior to accepting the plea, Donna Pendergast, first assistant attorney general, asked Wernette several questions related to the case to determine a factual basis to his guilty plea.

Court records show Wernette’s alleged offenses date back to June 30, 2014. Investigators conducted a search of Wernette’s Reed City home Sept. 15, 2020.

During the search, authorities seized two computers — belonging to Wernette — and discovered more than 100 images of child pornography on each computer.

At Friday’s hearing, Wernette admitted he downloaded and made copies of more than 100 images of child pornography on his two computers. He also confessed to using his personal cell phone to take pictures of the images on the computer screen and make copies for himself.

Prior to his arrest, Wernette was employed with the Osceola County Sheriff’s Department sometime in 2018. During his time with the department, Wernette was in a “secretary-like” position, answered phone calls and always wore civilian clothes, the sheriff’s office previously told the Big Rapids Pioneer.

Pertaining to Wernette’s drug charges, he admitted to stealing drugs — morphine and oxycontin — that belonged to the department’s Drug Take Back program. Investigators found the drugs hidden in Wernette’s home.

Hill-Kennedy accepted the plea agreement and set sentencing for March 26.

As of Friday, Wernette remains lodged in the Mecosta County Jail. He is being represented by defense attorney Robert S. Hackett.

“The crimes this defendant has now pled guilty to are extremely disturbing,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel stated in a release. “Children must never be taken advantage of, and this office will take aggressive action to ensure the laws that protect them are enforced and those individuals who exploit minors or support that immoral behavior are punished.”

The Pioneer is a Hearst-owned, sister publication of the Herald Review.