Former teacher chargedA former Superior High School math teacher is accused of possessing pornographic work involving minors.
By: By Mark Stodghill/Duluth News Tribune, Superior Telegram
A former Superior High School math teacher is accused of possessing pornographic work involving minors.
James Richard Pappas, 56, of Duluth, made his first appearance in St. Louis County District Court on Tuesday after an investigation by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
According to the criminal complaint:
Officer Dale Hanson of the Minneapolis Police Department identified a Minnesota computer on Jan. 29, 2009, as offering to participate in the distribution of child pornography. Ten files in the computer were suspected of being images or videos of child pornography.
Hanson sent an administrative subpoena to Charter Communications for the computer’s Internet Protocol address, and Pappas was identified as the subscriber. A search warrant was executed at Pappas’ home, and 19 items were seized, including a computer, a thumb drive and an external hard drive.
The complaint alleges that Pappas admitted to investigators that he had downloaded child pornography. A forensic examination of the evidence resulted in 85 images and 17 videos of suspected child pornography being found.
The graphics and video were downloaded onto a CD and mailed to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Child Victim Identification Program in Alexandria, Va. Three images and seven videos seized from Pappas were of identified child abuse victims. Nine of the victims are prepubescent girls.
Pappas resigned his position in the Superior school district on Nov. 30, 2009. He began teaching at Superior Senior High School in 1999.
According to Pappas’ school district personnel file, the Duluth Police Department confiscated his personal computer in November 2009 and found it contained child pornography.
During a Nov. 30 meeting between Pappas, union representatives and the district’s legal representation, the former Superior teacher refused to answer questions about the allegations, citing his 5th Amendment rights. Pappas offered his resignation the same day.
The Superior School Board made note of Pappas’ resignation at the Dec. 7 committee of the whole meeting but did not discuss the reasons for his departure. The measure did not require a vote from the board.
In his most recent employee evaluation, conducted in the 2006-07, Pappas received proficient rankings in six of the seven categories and an exemplary rating in the “learning environment” category. Evaluator comments for that section said Pappas created a positive learning environment for his students, and relationships were respectful.
“Mr. Pappas continually reaches out to his students, stressing the need to complete homework and think critically,” the reviewer wrote. “He maintains high standards for students academically and behaviorally.”
A search of Pappas’ license status on the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Web site shows he has been under investigation since Dec. 16, 2009. His current license expires in June 2011.
Pappas is accused of knowingly possessing a pornographic work involving minors. The crime is punishable by a maximum sentence of five years and a $5,000 fine.
The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program is a national network of 61 coordinated task forces representing more than 2,000 federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies.
The Superior Telegram contributed to this report.