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Saturday, June 23 News

Former librarian pleads not guilty in child porn case

WESTPORT — A former Westport Library employee charged with possession of 45 images of child pornography has plead not guilty.

Robert Kelly, 43, pled not guilty to illegal possession of child porn and promoting a minor in an obscene performance, both felonies and to misdemeanor obscenity charges at Stamford Superior Court on Feb. 22.

Kelly’s attorney Mark Sherman said he hasn’t seen the full reports of the alleged crimes because cases involving alleged possession of child pornography take several weeks to prepare.

Westport police have conducted 12 investigations into child pornography since 2014 with four investigations conducted in 2017, five in 2016, zero in 2015 and three in 2014, according to statistics provided by the Westport Police Department.

Kelly’s is the only arrest resulting from the 2017 investigations because two of the investigations were found to originate in Norwalk and forwarded to Norwalk police, Lieutenant Jillian Cabana said.

Now a former manager of collection curation at the Westport Public Library, Kelly is alleged to shared a child pornographic image and accompanying lewd message with a man via Facebook on Aug. 11, 2017, according to court filings. A further investigation by Westport police uncovered 45 images of child pronograghy on Kelly’s devices.

More Information

Report possession of child pornography to the cybertip hotline for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: 1800-843-5678

Upon learning of the investigation at the end of January, Westport Public Library Executive Director William Harner said he immediately restricted Kelly’s access to the library and its property and instructed him not to perform his duties. On Feb. 9, a representative of the library confirmed Kelly is no longer an employee of the library.

Two arrests were made on charges of child pornography in Westport in 2016 and of the 2014 cases, none resulted in an arrest but one was found to have originated in another town, Cabana said.

Some investigations into possession of child pornography are untraceable to a specific person, address, or account, which explains why not all of the investigations culminate in arrest or transference to another municipality, Cabana added.

Although the Westport statistics do not suggest an upward climb in the number of child pornography investigations, Mary Pulido, Executive Director of The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, said “child sex abuse exploitation, including child pornography, is the fastest growing crime against children in the world, and rampant.”

The production and circulation of child pornography is the fastest growing illegal business online, with estimated annual revenues of $3 billion, Pulido said. Cabana agrees the dark web has contributed to the rise in child pornography, and said, “the ones we get are probably just the tip of the iceberg.”

Kelly, a Rhode Island native, fits the profile of a person charged with possession of child pornography.

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“The majority of people arrested are white middle-class males in their 30s and 40s,” Pulido said, but noted the most important party to consider are the victims of child pornography themselves, the average age of whom is 10 years old.

“When a child is photographed the damage is irreparable because once it’s on the internet the photo is nearly impossible to take down,” Pulido said, adding, “research shows children who have been sexually abused and photographed adds to their levels of depression, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and suicidal ideation.”

Due to the profound damage child pornography and the distribution of child pornographic photos causes to its victims, Pulido urged those aware of child sex abuse exploitation to report the tip to the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children.

Kelly will next appear in Stamford Superior Court on March 27.

asvaughan@hearstmediact.com; @SophieCVaughan1

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