Walworth County Judge Daniel Johnson said he “thought strongly” about whether he should accept a plea agreement that would send a Lake Geneva man to prison for three years in a child pornography case.

The man, Carlin C. Pillman, 35, reached the agreement Thursday in a case that had gone on for more than four years.

He pleaded guilty Thursday to possessing child porn—which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of three years—and causing a child to expose intimate parts in 2014. Several other charges were dismissed and read in.

Johnson said he thought about the “incredibly serious and incredibly concerning” circumstances in the case. Such behavior “hides in the shadows” and creates a market for children to be exploited.

But “what tipped the scales” was the length of time Pillman has been released on bond without reoffending.

“I believe that mitigates the extremely serious nature of this matter to some extent,” he said.

Johnson accepted the plea agreement and sentenced Pillman to three years in prison, after which he will serve three years of extended supervision. He must also pay a $500 fine plus court costs.

On Sept. 18, 2014, investigators executed a search warrant at Pillman’s home. They found child porn on his laptop, according to the criminal complaint. They also found some photos of a naked young girl on his phone.

One of Pillman’s lawyers, Jerome Buting, said part of the reason the case took so long was he was appealing another case with how the mandatory-minimum sentence was applied. Pillman’s case also saw new charges filed on the eve of his fall 2017 trial.

But Buting on Thursday said both sides reached a “reasonable resolution.”

Pillman’s other lawyer Larry Steen said he knew Carlin before the September 2014 search warrant.

“I have seen Carlin change a lot,” Steen said.

On Thursday, Pillman said he takes full responsibility for his actions and apologized. His life was “in a very different place” in 2014, and he has since “made many life changes.”

“Not a day goes by that I don’t regret the bad choices I made,” he said. “As a result of my actions, I let down my family, friends and community.”

As part of a condition of his extended supervision, Pillman will not be allowed to have contact with children. But the agreement makes an exception for his own two children, as long as it is consistent with family court orders.

“My children will now see their father go to prison,” he said.

Pillman, a former firefighter, said he can become a better person with treatment.

Johnson agreed and said treatment would be necessary. No victims spoke at Thursday’s hearing.

Pillman hugged some of his supporters before the hearing. He went straight into custody at the hearing’s end with no chance to hug them again.