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Former Pixar exec faces 2 months in jail, probation but no sex-offender status

A 42-year-old former Pixar Animation Studios executive was sentenced Monday to two months in jail and two years probation after admitting he sent sexually explicit images to a police officer posing online as a 13-year-old girl.

But Martin Eshoff of Novato was spared registering for life as a sex offender by Sonoma County Judge Elliot Daum, who called the three online incidents "very situational."

Daum, who reduced the charges to misdemeanors during negotiations on a plea bargain, characterized Eshoff's actions as a "free-fall that was caught by a very strange kind of net."

Petaluma police arrested Eshoff in September after they said he sent three sexually explicit images from his work computer in Emeryville to a detective posing as a 13-year-old girl. Though he communicated via his work computer, he never brought Pixar into the conversation, police said.

Prosecutor James Patrick Casey argued for jail time, saying Eshoff's behavior met the legal definition of "substantial sexual conduct" with a minor.

"We think the conduct of this 41-year-old man with a child he believed to be 13 certainly requires some modicum of punishment," he said.

The charges originally were filed as felonies, which would have required Eshoff to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life and likely serve prison time if convicted.

Daum still had the option of requiring Eshoff to register when the charges were reduced to misdemeanors as attorneys negotiated a plea deal that would call for a maximum of a year in jail or probation.

Eshoff agreed to plead guilty in May to the lesser charges and his attorney, Chris Andrian, said he has been receiving intense treatment for sex addiction since his arrest.

A Probation Department presentencing report recommended stringent conditions of probation for Eshoff, including that he submit to lie-detector tests and be forbidden to initiate contact with minors or be in places where young people congregate.

Daum determined those conditions were unnecessary, given Eshoff's lack of criminal history and doctors' reports saying he isn't a pedophile.

Eshoff was ordered not to have real-time conversations with minors on a computer unless the Probation Department approves.

Daum also ordered Eshoff not to work or volunteer at a job that caters to children without Probation Department permission. Though he worked at Pixar, a hugely successful producer of computer-animated films for children, his job was unrelated to children's activities, Andrian said.

More than a dozen supporters attended the hearing for Eshoff and greeted him with tearful hugs and sighs of relief in the hallway after the sentence.

Andrian said Eshoff recognizes he has a sexual problem and is "committed to recovery." A court-appointed psychiatrist said Eshoff was amendable to treatment and unlikely to reoffend, Andrian said.

Eshoff, a finance manager at the studio, was suspended from his job during the investigation and has since resigned, Andrian said.

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 568-5312 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.

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