An award-winning contemporary literature professor who formerly taught at a private school in northwestern Pennsylvania has pleaded guilty to possessing, receiving and sharing child pornography and now faces at least five years in federal prison.
Kirk Nesset, 57, resigned from Allegheny College after he was arrested Oct. 1. The college is in Meadville, about 90 miles north of Pittsburgh.
He eventually was indicted by a federal grand jury and on Monday pleaded guilty to all three charges before a federal judge in Erie. He'll be sentenced Aug. 10.
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Nesset won the Drue Heinz Literature Prize in 2007 for a collection of short stories called ``Paradise Road.'' The award is given annually by the University of Pittsburgh Press and includes a $15,000 cash prize.
Defense attorneys declined comment on the guilty plea or the potential sentence Nesset faces.
But court documents indicate Nesset faces up to 10 years in prison on the pornography possession charge and between five and 20 years in prison for both the receipt and distribution charges. As a result, U.S. District Judge David Cercone ordered Nesset to surrender to federal custody on May 5, even though he won't be sentenced for more than three months later.
Nesset listed physical addresses in Prescott, Arizona, and Meadville when an FBI agent in Arizona traced two movies to Nesset's computer address in August. The movies showed girls who appeared to be 8 years old having sex with men. A Pennsylvania state trooper in September continued the investigation and found another movie featuring a naked 6-year-old girl, the complaint said.
Armed with that information, the FBI searched Nesset's home in October and seized an external computer hard drive.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christian Trabold told the judge on Monday that a forensic examination of the computer revealed more than 540,000 items depicting child pornography, erotica or child modeling photos. There were too many items for agents to search manually, but an electronic search revealed more than 36,000 items of child pornography stored in one computer file alone, including more than 1,000 images or movies depicting babies or infants, Trabold said.
Among others, Trabold said one series of pictures showed a man trying to have sex with a young child during a diaper change.
Nesset acknowledged masturbating to the images, telling investigators he did so to find ``solace'' or ``release steam,'' Trabold said.