Teacher pleads guilty to 1 count of distributing child pornography

Man in Internet case had resigned in June

September 11, 1999|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A former Baltimore County schoolteacher admitted yesterday that he sent child pornography over the Internet, pleading guilty in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court to one count of distribution.

Gary Lee Russell, 53, of the 700 block of Fairview Avenue in Annapolis probably will be placed on probation when sentenced Nov. 19 by Judge Joseph P. Manck. Three related charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement.

Russell taught earth science at Old Court Middle School in Randallstown last year, but resigned when he was charged in early June. He taught in two Prince George's County middle schools from 1968 to 1973, then left teaching to sell real estate, returning to teaching a year ago.

Russell said nothing beyond answering Manck's questions about the plea. After the brief hearing, his attorney, David W. Fischer, said he will seek probation before judgment for his client, which would let Russell erase his record if he successfully finishes his probation. Probation can last up to five years. State sentencing guidelines recommend probation for Russell, who has no criminal record.

"I believe that losing his job and the public shame he has gotten in connection with this matter is sufficient punishment," Fischer said.

Terms of probation, such as whether Russell will be ordered to register as a sex offender as Assistant State's Attorney Thomas J. Fleckenstein wants, probably will be issues of contention.

America Online, the Internet service provider with which Russell had two accounts, turned Russell in to Maryland State Police in March, sending records that showed Russell sent child pornography to 23 people that month, Fleckenstein said.

Russell had downloaded some 1,200 to 1,400 pornographic photographs, about a dozen of which showed children engaging in sexual activities with adults, Fleckenstein said. He offered several of them in a chat room.

There was no indication that Russell improperly touched or photographed children or that he was part of a child pornography ring, Fleckenstein said.

A psychological evaluation showed that Russell had an alcohol problem, but was not a pedophile, Fischer said.

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