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Alabama man sentenced for impeding child abuse investigation

By Kaija Wilkinson

MOBILE, Alabama (Reuters) - An Alabama businessman convicted of attempting to cover up his son's molestation of children at a family-run orphanage in Honduras was sentenced on Friday to two months in jail.

Bill Atkinson, 58, also was ordered to serve three years of home supervision and he was fined $25,000.

A jury convicted Atkinson earlier this year on charges of conspiracy and obstructing justice. Federal prosecutors presented evidence that he had instructed two of his sons to destroy a digital video recorder that contained footage of his eldest son sexually abusing children.

"We cannot allow people to destroy evidence without consequence," said U.S. District Judge Kristi DuBose, who handed down the sentence.

A son who is estranged from the family had secretly installed the camera at the orphanage after children there accused his brother of molesting them.

The other son, Williams James "Will" Atkinson IV, is in jail in Honduras, charged with raping at least two children.

The elder Atkinson's defense lawyers said their client had the recorder destroyed because he did not want child pornography in his home. They said prosecutors already had copies of the video.

Character witnesses, including pastors, former employees and fellow businessmen, testified in court on Friday that Bill Atkinson was a kind, fair and self-sacrificing man.

Atkinson took the stand, tearfully describing his shock and devastation over the video, and saying he feared for his son's mental state.

His attorney said the Bureau of Prisons would decide whether Atkinson would serve his sentence in a jail or a federal prison.

Atkinson, who runs a plant nursery in the Mobile suburb of Theodore, ran unsuccessfully last year for the Alabama House of Representatives.

(Editing by Jane Sutton)

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