Kirk Nesset, former professor of English at Allegheny and an award-winning writer, pleaded not guilty on Oct. 14 to three child pornography charges, despite admitting to the crime to federal law enforcement agents at the time of his arrest. A grand jury returned a three-count indictment against Nesset for receipt, distribution and possession of child pornography from 2005 to 2014.
Nesset, 57, was arrested on Wednesday, Oct. 1 following the execution of a warrant conducted by federal and state agents. The search found approximately 550,000 video and image files of child pornography saved on an external hard drive. Following his arrest, Nesset resigned from the college on Thursday, Oct. 2.
If convicted on all three charges Nesset faces a maximum of 50 years in prison and a maximum fine of $750,000, according to the indictment by United States Attorney David Hickton and Assistant United States Attorney Christian Trabold.
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.
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.
Nesset is represented by Meagan Temple and Michael Bruzzese of Johnson, Bruzzese and Temple in Pittsburgh. Nesset was originally represented by a federal public attorney but sought new representation. Several phone calls from The Campus to Nesset’s new attorneys went unanswered.
Following Nesset’s arrest on Oct. 1, the administration canceled classes on Friday, Oct. 3 and a held an open forum. Students raised concerns to the administration during the two and a half hour forum.
Nesset won the Perry 200 Poetry Prize for his poem “Orinco, Upriver” in July of 2013 and the University of Pittsburgh’s Drue Heinz Literature Prize for his manuscript “Paradise Road.”