Thursday, August 04, 2016

Ex-Jewish Community Center camp counselor pleads guilty to child porn 

One year after getting fired amidst a child pornography scandal that stunned and outraged a suburban community,  a former Jewish Community Center camp counselor pleaded guilty today to distributing photographs of  nude children on the Internet.

The defendant, who is accused of posting photos of nude boys on a Russian website --  including three 5-year-old campers he oversaw --  did not specify in open court exactly what he did. Unlike in most guilty plea hearings, the judge spared 21-year-old Matthew Kuppe of West Bloomfield  from having to explain in his own words what he did, but instead just asked him this:

"Did you distribute child pornography?" U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn asked Kuppe.

"Yes, your honor," answered Kuppe, who faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison for his crime, admitted his guilt in the presence of his parents and two families of his victims.

Those families left the courtroom in silence. So did Kuppe and his parents.

The offense carries a maximum 20 years in prison. His sentencing guidelines call for a maximum 10 years in prison, though the judge will have the final say. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

In exchange for his guilty plea, the more serious charge -- producing child pornography -- was dropped.

Kuppe was arrested in August after the Department of Homeland Security's Homeland Security Investigations uncovered dozens of nude photographs of young boys, presumably at the camp. He was fired after Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit administrators discovered he was being investigated for suspected abuse. Three employees were also fired after it was learned that supervisors at the day camp failed to alert senior management that an employee had expressed concerns about Kuppe in the summer of 2014.

The case ignited a fury of controversy, especially when Kuppe was released on bond, triggering an outcry of disgust among parents who felt the accused should have been locked up. In releasing him on bond, U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn conceded that while the charges Kuppe faced were "extremely serious," they were not violent crimes, nor did they involve drugs -- both of which are factors in deciding whether someone is a danger to the community.

Cohn also stated in his ruling that the children photographed in this case "were not engaged with other persons and ... did not know that they were being photographed." He also took into account Kuppe's personal history: he had no criminal record.

Parents blasted Cohn's decision in November, saying it "diminished the profoundness of his crimes."

"This devastating incident has forever changed our lives and we will not know for quite some time what impact this will have on our children," the parents said in a statement. " Just because you can't see the damage doesn't mean it is not there."

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