Chris Langham arrived at Maidstone Crown Court, in the words of Judge Philip Statman, "a gifted actor and writer" - a Bafta award-winning performer at the peak of his career.
Langham denied he was a paedophile
He left it in the back of a prison van, his name on the register of sex offenders and awaiting sentencing on 15 counts of making indecent images of a child - in other words, downloading child pornography.
Throughout his trial he had denied the charges. To plead guilty would have meant, he said, admitting he was a paedophile "which I am not".
But he admitted looking at child pornography online and gave two explanations for what he did.
The first was that he was researching a character, a sex offender, for the TV series Help.
The second, he said as his voice shook, was that he himself had been sexually abused as a child, and he had been drawn to the internet images of abuse "because it's an issue in my life".
It was dismissed as "pseudo-psychobabble" by prosecutor Richard Barraclough QC and the judge said neither explanation provided a legal defence.
When the jury were shown parts of the clips he had downloaded, one member wept.
Langham starred in the BBC's political satire The Thick of It
In court Langham cut a repentant but often articulate figure, describing a life troubled not only by incidents of abuse as a child, but problems with drink and drugs before he gave both up in the 1980s.
He described how therapy and Alcoholics Anonymous had saved his life. He broke down once, when he described the impact his arrest had on his family.
"I just wanted to die and I tried to kill myself," he said.
The jury cleared him of six counts of indecent assault and two counts of serious sexual assault on a girl who was just 14 when the alleged crimes were to have begun.
Now a woman aged 25, she had gone to police after she heard media reports of Langham's arrest on suspicion of possessing child pornography in 2005.
Hidden from the defendant by a screen in court, she told the jury she had met the actor when he appeared in a theatre production of Les Miserables.
He took her to some of London's top restaurants and bought her expensive gifts. But her allegations that he had sex with her in his dressing room, in hotels and at his home did not convince the jury.
At times throughout the trial his three adult sons, each bearing a startling resemblance to the actor, sat at the back of the public gallery.
Moments before the verdict, Langham smiled and nodded to them.
After the verdict Detective Inspector Derek Cuff spoke outside the court on behalf, he said, of those whose voices had not been heard inside - the children sexually abused in the production of "harrowing" pornography which Langham had, by viewing, helped perpetuate.