Updated at 7:07 p.m. on Oct. 2, 2014.
Kirk Nesset, professor of English, 57, was charged with one count of receipt and distribution of child pornography and one count of possession of child pornography in United States District Court in Erie after federal agents executed a search warrant at his Meadville home on Wednesday, Oct. 1, according to a criminal complaint filed by the FBI.
Federal agents found thousands of images and videos of child pornography on Nesset’s hard drive. According to the affidavit in support of the criminal complaint, approximately 550,000 JPG or movie files were located in folders on his computer.
Nesset appeared in U.S. District Court Wednesday morning in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Baxter. According to the Erie Times-News, Nesset was released on $10,000 unsecured bond on the condition that he wear an electronic monitoring device and have a curfew of 11 p.m.to 7 a.m.
The investigation began on Aug. 14, 2014, according to the affidavit, when FBI Special Agent Jimmie John Daniels of the FBI’s Phoenix, Ariz. office conducted an investigation in an undercover capacity on a Bittorrent Peer-to-Peer file sharing network. Upon further investigation, the IP address was traced to Nesset’s Arizona home and his billing address in Meadville.
A federal search warrant was obtained on Sept. 30, and executed Wednsday, Oct 1. During the execution of the warrant, Nesset was interviewed by law enforcement officials and admitted to downloading child pornography material for the last two years, according to the affidavit.
The child pornography was organized by category on an external hard drive. Nesset admitted in the interview with law enforcement officials that he was aware that he was sharing information in a shared folder and that he knew “downloading child pornography was wrong,” according to the affidavit.
The college found out about the charges from Nesset himself. In a statement released from President James Mullen, the college did not hear of any allegations against Nesset until he told the school.
“This was the first we ever heard any such allegations,” Mullen said in an email to the school community. “To date, law-enforcement authorities have not contacted the college regarding this investigation. They will receive our full cooperation should they require it.”
Nesset answered the door at his Meadville home Thursday, Oct. 2, but declined to comment on the matter.
On Thursday morning Nesset gave his resignation and it was accepted by Allegheny Provost Linda DeMeritt.
“We have identified Matthew Ferrence and Kate McIntyre to take over the two creative writing classes and are still looking for an instructor for his FS101 class,” DeMeritt said.
Currently, Nesset only had one senior comprehensive project he was advising and the school is still looking for a replacement adviser. His other advisees have been assigned to other professors as well.
Nesset was also a regular instructor for the Black Forest Writing Workshop, a creative writing workshop held in Freiburg, Germany. The workshop organizers sent an email to former attendees on Thursday morning to formally sever ties with Nesset.
“As former participants in the program, we want to assure you that we have never had any complaints about [Nesset] of this nature, and upon hearing these charges we have immediately severed all ties with him,” said an email from the Black Forest Writing Workshop team to previous attendees.
Lauren Dominique, ’16, was in the middle of applying to the workshop with Nesset’s help just last week.
“I met him mid-week last week,” said Dominque. “I told him that I was interested in the Black Forest Writing Seminar that he is a professor on. So he started helping with me the application. I spent a lot of time in his office this week talking about what it’s like in Germany and what the seminar is and how people learn from it.”
Many students are talking about how this will affect the campus community as a whole from individual departments to smaller communities. Shaun Choffel, ’16, a Gator Guide, said the campus community has a responsibility to discuss how this might affect the campus community.
“I think every single department is going to have a discussion on that and get back to the students,” said Choffel. “I think the entire admissions department is going to have to have a meeting with the staff themselves and then with the Gator Guides separate as well. It’s each department’s responsibility to talk to us as students to say ‘here’s what happened, this is how we move forward and this is how we should respond to this if we’re asked about it.’”
According to the Meadville Tribune, Nesset is scheduled for a preliminary case hearing on Oct. 15.
Photo courtesy of Allegheny College
Nesset is an award-winning fiction writer who has worked at Allegheny College since 1995.Photo courtesy of Allegheny College