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Library, police deal with kiddie porn incident

Date: 6/16/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE -- Holyoke Library officials met last Tuesday to discuss the next step in securing the library's public computers against illegal use.

In June 3, Michael Houle of Holyoke was indicted by a grand jury with charges of nine counts of child pornography.

In the eight years she has been on the Library Board, Ellen Moriarty, the president of the board, told Reminder Publications, "This is the first time we've had any kind of problem [of this nature.]"

According to the police report issued by Police Chief Anthony Scott, On Dec. 15, 2008, Assistant Library Director Carla Wessels "stated she wanted to report an incident of possible child pornography found on one of their publicly accessible computers. Wessels stated the that pornography was brought to her attention on Dec. 12, 2008 by a female library patron who was checking her e-mail."

A computer forensics examiner contacted through the New England State Police Information Network checked the computer's hard drive and reported in March that pornographic images were downloaded onto the computer on Dec. 10, 2008. The images were linked to an e-mail address used by Houle.

Following an interview with Houle, Holyoke Police Detective Jennifer Sattler filed a criminal compliant in Holyoke District Court on five counts of possession of child pornography against Houle.

Holyoke Mayor Michael Sullivan said," No children were harmed or threatened at the time of the incident at the library."

Moriarty thanks the Holyoke Police Department for its actions and stressed that no child had been exposed to the material. She noted the computers in the children's room are not connected to the Internet.

"What this guy did was totally wrong," Moriarty said. "How this guy got through the firewall, I don't know."

The Library Board will now consult with it information technology provider on how to strengthen filters on the library's computers without jeopardizing patron's First Amendment rights. The board will also consider revising its polices on how the computers can be used.

"It's a contentious issue," she said. "The First Amendment puts you on shaky ground."

Scott said, " I am concerned with the delay in reporting this incident by the library staff, however I am very pleased with the actions taken by Ms. Wessels in reporting the incident and taking steps to securing the computer in question. I commend Detective Sattler for her thorough investigation, which resulted in the identification of the culprit and his subsequent indictment. I hope that the Library Board and staff have implemented procedures to insure that their computers have the necessary software to prevent access to Web sites containing pornography in general and child pornography in particular."