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CHARLESTON -- Expected testimony that "would have cast a lot of doubt" on a child pornography case led to its dismissal.

That was according to the prosecutor in the case against Nicholas J. Bennett, 23, who was accused of taking a photograph of the exposed genital area of a 4-year-old girl at her Mattoon residence in January.

Bennett was arrested after a family member found the photograph on her phone and the girl then claimed Bennett took it, according to records in the case.

However, the girl's mother recently indicated that, if called to testify at trial, she would say the photo was not of her daughter, Coles County State's Attorney Jesse Danley said.

Danley said the mother's likely testimony "would have cast a lot of doubt" and was one of the evidence issues discovered as the case was reviewed leading up to trial.

He also said Bennett did not have his own phone and the woman who owned the phone with the photo allowed the girl and other children to use it.

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The case records say the woman who owned the phone told police she first thought the photo might have resulted from the children playing with it. Bennett also denied taking the photo, the records say.

Danley said he felt the case was "well investigated" and his decision to seek dismissal of the case was "a very tough call."

He also said he considered the impact on the girl and other child witnesses having to testify during trial. He said a decision had to be made because Bennett's trial was scheduled to take place this week.

County Public Defender Anthony Ortega represented Bennett in the case but wasn't available for comment. Circuit Judge James Glenn granted Danley's motion to dismiss the case.

The charge against Bennett was a felony offense that would have required a prison sentence of six to 30 years had he been convicted.

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Contact Dave Fopay at (217) 238-6858. Follow him on Twitter: @FopayDave

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Dave Fopay is a reporter for the JG-TC who covers Coles County, the local court system, Charleston schools and more.

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