Pony ride worker sentenced to 5 years for sex offenses


DOVER — A Houston man got five years in prison after pleading guilty to sex offenses involving minors while working at Fifer Orchards two years ago.

John R. Blackburn was immediately sentenced after admitting to four counts of first-degree unlawful sexual contact and a count of failure to re-register as a sex offender. He declined comment before Superior Court Judge William L. Witham Jr. other than to ask that he be ordered to take educational programs while in prison.

The defendant was 33 years old when the investigation began on Nov. 2, 2016. He was arrested two days later by Delaware State Police and has been incarcerated since.

Authorities initially announced that a 9-year-old female had reportedly been inappropriately touched by an Angels Gather Here Pony Rides worker while on orchards grounds at 1919 Allabands Mill Road in Camden-Wyoming. A Fifer Orchards representative contacted police after the victim’s mother spoke with the pony ride company owner, police said.

John R. Blackburn

Blackburn was ordered to serve four years Level III probation upon release from prison. A no contact order with any person under age 18 and Fifer Orchards was put in place, along with a ban from being in the vicinity of any area where children are present while on probation.

Judge Witham cautioned that the conditions had a zero tolerance policy for violations, and 34 years of prison was possible based on the five felony convictions.

Blackburn will take part in the Transitions program while in prison and register as a Level III sex offender. He was ordered to take a mental health evaluation and take part in any sex offender counseling and treatment as warranted.

Judge Witham described Transitions as an “excellent” program.

Defense Attorney Anthony Capone described Blackburn as having “no schooling and significant learning deficits” while pointing to medical evaluations that indicated potential placement on the autism spectrum. He also underwent competency restoration treatment while the case proceeded, the attorney said.

Deputy Attorney General Kathleen Dickerson prosecuted the case for the state.

The Delaware Bureau of Community Corrections defines Level III probation as “intensive supervision that entails at least the equivalent of one hour of supervision per day and no more than 56 hours of supervision per week. The minimum of one hour of supervision per day is achieved through direct offender contact, collateral contact, verification of each offender’s activities (e.g., residence, employment, training and school), and performance with court-ordered treatment and Community Service.

“The emphasis is on supervision through increased community contacts.”

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