SWAMPSCOTT — A now-former special education teacher from Swampscott pleaded guilty yesterday to charges of possessing child pornography.
Christopher Toler, 47, who until last year taught at the North Shore Educational Consortium in Beverly, a program for special needs students from area communities, will have to serve 90 days of a 21/2 year jail term imposed by Salem Superior Court Judge David Lowy.
Toler had no criminal record until he was charged last year. He will begin serving the committed portion of his sentence on June 27, after the judge granted him a delay in the start of the sentence so he can complete a vocational training program.
Toler is taking part in the training because, as a result of the charges, he will no longer be allowed to work in education, his lawyer, John Andrews, told the judge.
The case came to light last February when the Department of Homeland Security identified the IP (Internet protocol) addresses of visitors to a website called Liberal Morality.
Investigators questioned Toler at the school where he worked, and he admitted to viewing sexually explicit images of not only children but elderly people, prosecutor Jen Kirshenbaum told the judge.
Toler, apparently believing that child pornography was not illegal if one did not pay for it, told investigators that they would find the images on his home computer, which was seized.
Investigators charged Toler with possessing four images depicting naked children, some engaged in sexual activity with adult men, the prosecutor told the judge.
As Kirshenbaum addressed the court, Toler’s wife sat in the courtroom gallery, crying.
Kirshenbaum asked Lowy to sentence Toler to one to two years in state prison, arguing that child pornography cases are “generally undervalued” by courts.
Because of people with an interest in child pornography, the images continue to be produced, and “every time these images are viewed, it’s a re-victimization of these children,” the prosecutor said.