Archive for Thursday, March 3, 2005

Collins pleads guilty in child porn case

March 3, 2005

A former De Soto High School administrator pleaded guilty this week to one count of possession of child pornography.

Charles Anthony Collins, 34, admitted to a federal judge Monday that he downloaded more than 600 images of child pornography on his personal computer, including many sexually explicit pictures of prepubescent minors, numerous photos of infants and about 100 movies depicting children engaged in sexual activities with adults.

Collins was De Soto High School's associate principal from August 2000 to June 2004. Citing personal reasons, he resigned at the end of the 2003-2004 school year.

The court lists Collins as living in Olathe.

Judge G. Thomas VanBebber set sentencing for May 16 at U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan.

Collins could face up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and up to one year of supervised release.

Collins' plea agreement requested a sentence of 33 months. He arranged the agreement with his attorney, Robin Fowler of Overland Park, and government prosecutor Kim Berger.

When VanBebber asked him during the hearing if he had been under the care of a doctor or a psychiatrist, Collins answered "yes."

After the hearing, Collins and Fowler refused to comment further.

Federal authorities never contacted the school district about searching Collins' work computer or to notify them of proceedings against the employee, said De Soto USD 232 spokesman Alvie Cater.

The Board of Education approved Collins' resignation on June 8, and his contract was completed June 25. Cater said the district could not disclose more about Collins' resignation, citing personnel matters as private.

Collins was indicted Nov. 17, 2004. His was one of 15 Kansas indictments returned the same day to draw attention to the problem of child pornography. The indictment charged that Collins possessed pornographic images on April 7, 2004.

Fowler said information filed Monday amended that date to Nov. 17, 2002.

Collins' plea agreement stated that on Nov. 17, 2002, he used his computer to join a child pornography Web site. Along with a credit card, Collins used his membership to that site and others to download images of child pornography, the document said.

He said he provided the pornography site with a Creative Teaching Solutions e-mail address. According to the agreement, the Creative Teaching Web site listed Collins as an educational consultant for the business.

That site, however, is no longer in service.

Collins' arrest followed federal investigation that tracked him and many other offenders online, in part through third-party credit card billing companies, said Jim Cross, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Eric Melgren.

After obtaining a warrant, authorities seized and searched Collins' computer.

"There's nothing in our case against Mr. Collins that alleges he made any physical contact with any children," Cross said. "What our case says is that we were out searching the global cyberspace for people that were downloading child pornography, and he was one of those people."

However, Cross said supporting child pornography ultimately harmed children.

"So long as there are people who collect child pornography, there will be people who produce it. And every time somebody produces it, a child gets hurt in the process," Cross said.

"Every one of those photographs is a photograph of child abuse. Those are not simulated children; those are real live girls and boys."

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