A Mills man who admitted earlier this year that he possessed child pornography will avoid serving prison time if he complies with the terms of his probation.

District Judge Daniel Forgey on Wednesday sentenced 30-year-old Mark Howard Eldridge to a 10-year term of supervised probation with an underlying, suspended prison sentence of two to eight years. Eldridge pleaded guilty in May to a single count of possessing child pornography, which carries a potential maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

According to an affidavit, agents with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation searched Eldridge's home in Mills last year following an online investigation on a peer-to-peer file sharing network which was allegedly used to share child pornography.

Eldridge told agents that there was an "inevitability" that child pornography files would be found when agents searched electronic devices inside the home.

During Wednesday's sentencing hearing, Assistant District Attorney Kevin Taheri requested that Eldridge serve the two- to eight-year prison sentence. Taheri cited the presentence investigation report, which he said claimed that no victims were identified in the case.

"While we don't know exactly who they are, there are victims," Taheri told Forgey. He went on to say that Eldridge claimed the download was accidental.

"He's not really acknowledging his conduct here," Taheri said of Eldridge. He conferred with an investigator before telling Forgey that multiple files containing child pornography were found on at least one device belonging to Eldridge.

Defense attorney Don Fuller told Forgey that probation was appropriate in the case based on the recommendation of the presentence investigation report and a psychosexual evaluation of Eldridge.

"He does need some counseling," Fuller said of his client, after explaining that evaluators found there was little chance that Eldridge would repeat the crime.

"At no point in time did he downplay the significance of this crime," Fuller continued. Fuller agreed with Taheri that while their identities may not be known, there were victims in the case.

Eldridge declined to make a statement before being sentenced.

Forgey, in sentencing Eldridge to probation, said he based his decision on the evaluations which rated the recidivism risk as low, and Eldridge's lack of significant criminal history. Forgey, however, noted the seriousness of the crime.

As part of his sentence, Eldridge will have to complete any counseling recommended by probation and parole. He will also have to follow their rules regarding sex offenders and use of electronic devices.