March 10, 2010

Ex-teacher pleads guilty to child porn

TREVOR MAXWELL

— By

Staff Writer

PORTLAND — A former school teacher from Buxton pleaded guilty Friday to a federal charge of possessing child pornography on his home computer.

Joshua Bach, 55, entered the plea in U.S. District Court, while reserving his right to appeal a prior ruling that denied his motion to suppress evidence in the case.

U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby had been scheduled to sentence Bach on Friday, but the sentencing was pushed back until at least Oct. 28, giving Bach time to care for his ailing father.

Bach's attorney, Bruce Merrill, has asked Hornby to hand down a prison sentence that is less severe than the 33- to 41-month range recommended under federal guidelines. In court documents, Merrill argues that three years in prison is far too much punishment for a man with no criminal record, whose crime involved downloading images from a Web site that he believed to be legal.

''Possession of child pornography is the least serious of crimes on the continuum of conduct -- from possession to distribution to predatory abuse -- that exploits children,'' Merrill wrote.

Merrill wants Hornby to impose a sentence of home confinement, to be followed by supervised release.

It is not known what the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Chapman, will seek for a sentence.

In May of 2003, Bach used a credit card to buy a membership to a Web site called darkfeeling.com.

He thought the images available there were legal because of a disclaimer indicating the site's operators complied with federal law.

Within the next year, Bach became a target of Operation Falcon, a nationwide law enforcement action that identified computer users who had used credit cards to sign up for Web sites that distributed child pornography.

Two agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Portland knocked on Bach's door on Aug. 24, 2004.

With his consent, the agents searched, then seized, his computer. A forensic analysis revealed still images and two video images of child pornography.

Prosecutors charged Bach in May of 2008.

There is no explanation in the court documents for why Bach was not prosecuted until four years after the alleged criminal conduct.

Bach, who earned a degree in music education from the University of Southern Maine, taught English, music and art at various schools in Maine, Merrill said in court documents.

Most recently he taught in Buxton, at a private school for students with behavioral problems. Bach left that job because of the federal investigation, and has since worked as a cook.

''Although Mr. Bach believed at the time that he was not doing anything illegal because of the legal disclaimer on the website he was viewing, he now realizes that his conduct in downloading those images was, in fact, illegal,'' Merrill wrote.

Staff Writer Trevor Maxwell can be contacted at 791-6451 or at:

tmaxwell@pressherald.com

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