Deer Isle-Stonington school employee charged with possession of child porn

Posted Oct. 04, 2011, at 1:39 p.m.
Last modified Oct. 04, 2011, at 7:15 p.m.
Joseph Audette
Hancock County Jail
Joseph Audette

DEER ISLE, Maine — An employee of the Deer Isle-Stonington public schools has been charged with possession of child pornography, although police said Tuesday a preliminary investigation suggests that no local children were involved.

Joseph Audette, 30, of Surry is the computer network administrator for the Deer Isle and Stonington school system. He was arrested Monday evening at his home in Surry after investigators with the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit linked him to a screen name used on sites that contain child pornography.

An on-site search of Audette’s computer on Monday found pornographic images of children that appear to have been downloaded from the Internet, according to Special Agent Michael McFadden with the computer crimes unit in Vassalboro.

“They don’t appear to be images or videos that were taken locally,” McFadden said, adding that the investigation is continuing. “He was interviewed extensively. He was cooperative and, at this point, we haven’t found anything to suggest that local kids are involved.”

Audette was charged with possession of sexually explicit materials featuring children under age 12, a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in prison. He subsequently was released from the Hancock County jail after making bail with restrictions prohibiting contact with anyone under age 18. He also is not allowed to use or possess equipment capable of accessing the Internet.

McFadden said his office moved quickly to track down Audette when they learned he was employed by a school system. School Union 76, which includes the Deer Isle-Stonington Central School District as well as Brooklin and Sedgwick, has been extremely cooperative and has secured Audette’s work computer for police analysis, he said.

While McFadden cautioned that only a small portion of Audette’s files have been reviewed, he said materials the state police have uncovered thus far appear to have been downloaded from the Web.

School Union 76 Superintendent Robert Webster did not name Audette specifically but said the arrested employee was placed on unpaid administrative leave and subsequently resigned his position with the schools on Tuesday afternoon. The employee did not have an instructional assignment at the schools and generally did not work directly with children, Webster said.

School personnel were notified of the arrest Tuesday morning and a message was posted on the schools’ Facebook page. Webster said he expected the issue to be discussed during a school board meeting scheduled for Tuesday night.

“It’s just an unfortunate situation that we are going to have to deal with,” Webster said in an interview.

Webster said that per standard procedure for all school employees, Audette was subjected to a criminal background check and fingerprint check before being approved for hire by the Maine Department of Education. Audette apparently has worked at the schools since August 2010.

Nonetheless, Webster said in a written statement that “the employment of this individual is a serious embarrassment for the school district.” He said staff and students would be provided with additional training on “appropriate, safe and responsible use of technology.”

Audette could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

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