Child pornography investigated on Tarleton computer
By Emily Cowart —
Tarleton State University police are investigating the discovery of child pornography on a computer in the university science building, police said.
A Tarleton police report, obtained under the Texas Public Information Act, on the July 25 incident said the computer was “found to contain child pornographic videos.”
Federal law defines child pornography as ”any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (someone under 18 years of age).”
Tarleton Public Relations Manager Cecilia Jacobs said in an email that, “Information Technology Services personnel found possible child pornography and reported it to university police. The computer was turned over to the Office of the Attorney General for forensics testing. The investigation is ongoing.”
It was not immediately clear who might be responsible for the videos being on a university computer, but the police report identifies a university staff member and two former students as having access to the computer. Police have yet to make an arrest.
“No one has been charged of anything,” Chief of Police Matt Welch said.
In an email to Tarleton spokesman Harry Battson, University Registrar David Sutton said one student attended Tarleton from spring 2013 to summer 2014, and a second student attended from spring 2009 to summer 2010.
Both obtained Bachelor of Science degrees in computer information systems, Sutton said. Battson also said neither individual is a university employee.
Battson said that the university staffer mentioned in the police report was placed on administrative leave with pay throughout the duration of the investigation. He said the investigation concluded that the staffer was not involved in the incident and the employee was reinstated on Oct. 4.
In a phone interview, the staffer said, “I am very happy to be back at work.” Texan News is not identifying the employee because the employee has been cleared of wrongdoing.
The employee said both former students are also former student workers and had access to the computer in question.
The employee said investigators “found the porn on my computer and asked where it came from. I wasn’t sure at the time so I had to remember who had worked for me. When he (the officer) told me the files were found in a music folder, I knew who it was and gave him the name. He interviewed (the former student) and he admitted that the porn was his.”
Welch said the Tarleton police department received a forensic analysis of the computer from the Attorney General’s office. The analysis contained information of when the computer was accessed and by whom.
“We are reviewing it (the analysis) and then we will take it to the District Attorney’s office for possible charges on someone no longer connected with the university,” Welch said.
Texan News requested copies of the offense report on the incident.
Included in the offense report were six pages of redacted (censored) police narrative. Tarleton Public Information Officer Susan Barkley confirmed in an email that the redacted information “is text,” and not images.
This is not the first time child pornography has found on a university computer. In 2008, professor Thomas M. Dougherty was indicted for suspicious files found on his computer by a student in December 2007.
The case was then forwarded to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s Cyber Crimes Unit, which “allegedly uncovered several images and videos of child pornography,” according to the Texas Attorney General’s office.
Dougherty was convicted and sentenced to 10 years probation and fined $1,500 in 2009.
According to the Attorney General of Texas, “under Texas law, possession of child pornography is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine.”
Texan News will update this story as more information is made available.