David Moe, preschool teacher who kept hugs journal: Limited indictments
Update: Earlier this month, we told you about the strange case of David Moe, a veteran teacher at Paddington School whose bust on child pornography charges was seemingly echoed by word that he kept an 800-page journal outlining his creepy fascination with very young children; see our original coverage below. But a grand jury's indictments against Moe don't include accusations that he either molested any children or produced child porn starring them.
Moe, who worked at Paddington for eighteen years, reportedly had pages of his journal squirreled away in pretty much every nook and cranny of his home -- those that weren't already filled with DVDs and CDs featuring objectionable images of children, that is.
Moreover, many of the entries appear to have sexualized the youngsters. The Denver Post quotes one that described a girl as "hot and cold," and added, "We'll see how hot she is if anything good. She may just be a stick in the mud."
These kinds of statements suggest behavior known as grooming -- essentially targeting and drawing in children for sexual exploitation and assault. But the three-count indictment on view below isn't based on such actions. Rather, Moe is accused of knowingly distributing and attempting to distribute child pornography between April 28 and July 24 of this year; knowingly receiving and attempting to receive child pornography between May 13 and May 15; and possessing material that contained child pornography shipped and transported in interstate and foreign commerce, including by computer.
These are very serious crimes. Conviction on the first offense brings with it a possible federal prison jolt of between five and twenty years and a $250,000 fine, with the same potential punishment for the second count, and up to ten years imprisonment for the third violation. But had he actually molested any of the children, or taken pornographic photos of them, the sentencing ceiling would have been much higher.
Can't imagine the limited nature of the indictments makes parents at Paddington feel any better. Indeed, the Post's most recent article about Moe explores the question of liability for the school should parents sue the facility for employing such a person for so long.
Of course, negligence may be difficult to prove, even if (update) the question of whether the school was aware of Moe's predilections remains in dispute. (The same is true of reports that Moe had been quizzed but not charged about inappropriate contact with a child a decade ago.) But lawsuits aren't beyond the realm of possibility in a case as unnerving as this one. Here are the indictments.
Continue reading to see our earlier coverage of the David Moe case.
Original post, 6:19 a.m. August 9: The case of David Moe, a longtime teacher at Paddington Station preschool, is mighty strange, representing a shifting middle ground between creepy behavior and child pornography. The uncertainty surrounding whether or not he's a threat to the community is reflected in a court order releasing him from custody yesterday, but with a whopping thirteen conditions that severely limit his freedom.
The U.S. Attorney's Office, working in conjunction with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security branch, announced the 45-year-old Moe's first court appearance back on July 26 based on a criminal complaint alleging distribution and possession of child pornography.
Paddington Station Preschool.
The accusation didn't come entirely out of the blue: Moe, who taught courses involving "cultural rhythms" and enrichment at Paddington, where he'd worked since 1993, had been questioned* ten years earlier on an accusation of inappropriate contact with a child. (Paddington appears to have been unaware of this incident.) But nothing had been proven then, and he had apparently avoided related allegations until last month, when an undercover officer observed what is described as "child pornography available for downloading on another computer that was using peer-to-peer software to share files."
Such assertions conjure up terrible thoughts of explicit imagery -- but 9News subsequently reported that the 4,100 images found on more than 500 CDs, six portable hard drives and two computers represented a mix of child pornography and child erotica, with the latter often being deemed legal, if more than a bit disturbing to most people. Sorting that out will likely prove complicated.
Even more disturbing to Paddington parents, though, was news of an 800-page journal, with descriptions of Moe's interactions with children in his charge. 9News offers the following sample entries:
"Did hold [name withheld by prosecutors] by the waist briefly, and she didn't flinch."
"Had [name withheld] by the hips, and she was fine by that."
"I was overly affection [sic] with her, but I love her so. No more of that."
"Gave her a kiss on the cheek, and no bad reaction. I love her so much."
The station also quotes one little girl as saying, "I only let my family tickle me" -- an announcement that prompted Moe to write, "She's obviously been coached."
Since news broke, both the U.S. Attorney's Office and Paddington have been trying to calm parents. The former offers this statement:
If you are inquiring about the journal in the David Moe case, please know that we do understand that this is a very difficult time for you as a parent. If you are seeking specifics regarding the contents of the journal discussed at the detention hearing, please know that because the journal is evidence and is part of an ongoing investigation, the U.S. Attorney's Office nor ICE HSI can discuss the contents of the journal.
As for the school, a statement to parents stresses that "we are not aware of any evidence that David Moe was producing child pornography," adding, "We are not aware of any evidence that his alleged activities occurred on school property." After pledging to inform parents immediately if "there is any indication that the crimes David Moe allegedly committed are broader than we are currently aware of," the statement concludes, "We share your frustration, anger and sorrow over the events of the past several days and continue to seek all of the facts as quickly as possible."
After this info was reviewed, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Michael Hegarty revealed at a hearing yesterday that Moe would be released. But because prosecutors at the hearing had enumerated approximately 100 instances of him touching, tickling and hugging preschool-age girls over a decade and a half, Hegarty put the following conditions on him:
(1) a property bond for the home where Defendant was living at the time of his arrest, in the full amount of the equity in the home. (Note: It's valued at $283,000);
(2) home incarceration (with no permission to leave the dwelling other than for court appearances);
(3) active GPS monitoring, which shows in real time Defendant's current location;
(4) avoiding all contact with any minor children;
(5) residence at Defendant's parents' home and placement in their custody, with them agreeing to (a) supervise the Defendant, (b) use every effort to assure the Defendant's appearance at all court proceedings, and (c) notify the Court immediately if the Defendant violates a condition of release or is no longer in the custodian's custody;
(6) prohibition from Defendant accessing the internet;
(7) prohibition from the Defendant accessing, possessing, or viewing any pornography, child or adult;
(8) prohibition from the Defendant subscribing to any internet service;
(9) requiring that the Defendant and/or his parents shall cancel any internet service and provide verification of cancellation to the Probation Office;
(10) allowing the Probation Office to monitor access to personal computers or laptops and allowing the Probation Office entrance to his residence for such purpose;
(11) purging any personal computers or electronic devices of all existing image files containing pornography within 24 hours of release;
(12) prohibition from use of any encryption software;
(13) undergoing a mental health evaluation and participating in a program of mental health treatment, as approved by the supervising probation officer.
If Moe is convicted of distribution and attempted distribution of child pornography, he could be sentenced to between five and twenty years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Possession of child porn, meanwhile, could net him up to ten years in a federal facility and another $250,000 fine. Here's a larger look at his photo.
*The original version of this post said that David Moe had been arrested ten years ago in regard to allegations of inappropriate contact with a child. We've since learned no arrest took place and he was only questioned. This reference has been corrected in the text above. We apologize for the error.
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