Update: School Employee Faces Charges For Child Porn



*This story contains additional information about an earlier story.

SURRY — An employee of the Deer Isle-Stonington Community School District was arrested Monday night at his home here on child pornography charges.

Joseph Audette, 30, who worked for the district as a computer network administrator, was arrested by members of the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit on a charge of possessing sexually explicit material. The charge is a Class C crime because the images are of children under the age of 12, said Detective Michael McFadden of the computer crimes unit.

According to McFadden, the investigation into Audette’s activities began about a week and a half ago.

“Essentially, we got a tip,” McFadden said. “We developed the information we were given.”

McFadden declined to release further information about how Audette became a suspect. However, according to a press release from public safety spokesman Steve McCausland, the computer crimes unit found a screen name appearing on a number of Internet sites that host child pornography. A subpoena was obtained to get the Internet protocol address of the screen name. On Monday, the unit learned the address belonged to Audette.

Because Audette works for a school system and has direct contact with students, the investigation became a priority.

“When it involves a school teacher you have to work quickly,” McFadden said.

Computers and related equipment were seized from Audette’s home, McFadden said. Due to the extensive collection of equipment, only a few items have been scanned for child pornography.

“It would be safe to say we haven’t even scratched the surface of it yet,” he said.

In addition, the school system has given permission to the computer crimes unit to analyze school computers used by Audette.

McFadden did not know when the forensic analysis would be completed.

“It’s a time-consuming process,” he said.

Following his arrest, Audette was taken to the Hancock County Jail in Ellsworth, where he later made bail. His bail conditions include having no contact with anyone younger than 18 and prohibit him from possessing any Internet-capable devices.

Audette, who has worked for the school system for about a year, has been placed on unpaid leave, according to Superintendent Robert Webster.

In a press release, Webster wrote that, at this point, there is no indication that local children are victims in the case.

“The school system will respond to this incident with additional training for students and staff on the appropriate, safe and responsible use of technology,” Webster said.

Audette’s arrest could lead to similar charges against other individuals, McFadden said.

“There’s a potential. I don’t know if those cases will be local,” he said.

Right now, Audette is facing state charges. Most likely, the case will be moved to U.S. District Court.

I think this case will go federal,” McFadden said.

Class C crimes are punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

For more police & court news, pick up a copy of The Ellsworth American.

Mark Good

Mark Good

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander