Child pornography: Former elementary-school prinicipal gets 30 years

Robert Burke of Dubuque, Iowa, admitted that he secretly set up a camera in the boys’ bathroom in his school to produce child pornography.

By , Staff writer

A former elementary-school principal in Iowa has been sentenced to 30 years in prison after admitting he secretly set up a camera in the boys’ bathroom in his school to produce child pornography.

Robert Burke of Dubuque pleaded guilty in August to one count of producing child pornography. The activities took place at the Sageville Elementary School in Dubuque.

Chief US District Judge Linda Reade rejected a request by Mr. Burke’s lawyer that he receive a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years. The lawyer had argued that Burke cooperated fully with federal agents once his crimes were discovered. He stressed that his client never physically touched a child in a sexual manner.

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In addition to the 30-year prison term handed down on Monday, Burke was ordered to pay a $25,000 fine and to serve 20 years’ probation upon release from prison. No restitution payments were ordered.

Burke told federal agents that he installed the video camera in January of this year. He was arrested in early June.

Officials were able to identify 59 boys who were photographed while standing at a urinal in the public-school bathroom. A number of other victims could not be identified, according to court documents.

Burke saved the recorded videos from his secret bathroom cam and stored them on computer drives at his home.

His activities were discovered after an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agent in Washington downloaded eight images of child pornography from an IP address that authorities later traced to Burke’s home computer.

During a raid at Burke’s home, agents found 32,000 images and over 12,000 videos of child pornography. According to court documents, most of the images had been obtained by Burke from the Internet and depicted prepubescent boys.

Agents also uncovered conversations that Burke had on an online chat forum frequented by those interested in obtaining and trading child pornography. During one chat, he allegedly said that he had depictions of “some boys peeing at urinals.” Burke said the files were not ready for sharing “right now,” according to court documents.

He is quoted as adding: “Let me know if you’re interested, and I’ll get those files ready.”

A forensic examination of Burke’s computers showed no evidence that any of the school videos had been shared on the Internet, federal officials say.

“As an elementary school principal, Burke was in a position of trust and authority over his students,” US Attorney Stephanie Rose said in a statement. “He took advantage of that trust, and he used his position of authority to exploit the children he was supposed to protect.”

She added: “Although Burke victimized many young children and caused tremendous concern to the entire community, the harm in this case might have been even worse had law enforcement not intervened when it did.”

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