Teacher pleads guilty to child porn charges

December 16, 2005|By ANNIE LINSKEY | ANNIE LINSKEY,SUN REPORTER

A former Old Mill High School science teacher pleaded guilty in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court yesterday to two counts of possessing child pornography.

Michael Joseph Cashen, 55, of Ferndale was granted probation before judgment by Judge Joseph P. Manck, who ordered one year of supervised probation with the first 30 days on house arrest.

Cashen apologized to the judge, saying, "I'm very sorry for a very foolish curiosity. I'd like to be able to do things in the community with some standard of dignity."

Manck said, "What troubles me about these things is that without a demand for the product there wouldn't be a need for it."

Cashen taught chemistry and physics at Old Mill until his arrest in May. He was accused of possessing child pornography after county firefighters, called to put out a blaze at his Cape Cod-style home, "stumbled across some of the material," a Fire Department spokesman said at the time. The fire was extinguished within 15 minutes, and Cashen surrendered at the Anne Arundel County Police Department's Northern District the next day.

Cashen, a 21-year employee of the Anne Arundel school system, was reassigned to a position that did not require contact with students immediately after his arrest. His employment with the school system is pending a separate internal investigation, said Maneka Wade, a spokeswoman for the school system.

The fire at Cashen's home caused an estimated $150,000 in damage, and the dwelling was ruled uninhabitable. The fire was caused when the power pack to an electrical device ignited, said Lt. Frank Fennell, a spokesman with the county Fire Department. No one was in the house at the time.

Detectives searched the home and found numerous photos depicting pre-adolescent girls in provocative poses and engaging in sexual activity, police said. Police said they seized the material and several computers.

Possession of child pornography is a felony subject to penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines of as much as $25,000, said Sgt. Shawn Urbas, a police spokesman.

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

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