DANVERS — A federal judge has refused to even consider a request by prosecutors to re-examine the bail of a former Merrimack College professor from Danvers who is accused of possessing child pornography.
U.S. District Court Judge David Hennessey, who released Gary Spring on $30,000 bond following Spring’s arrest in September, blamed prosecutors for failing to determine the conditions surrounding the location of Spring’s condo before they made their original request to keep Spring in custody in September. Spring’s condo was directly below a unit occupied by a single mom and her two kids, the condo is near a middle school, and numerous children walk past the building on a daily basis,
“Using reasonable care and diligence, the United States could have easily determined whether children resided in one or more of the other units,” Hennessey wrote in his order issued Thursday. “Interviewing neighbors, speaking with a building custodian, even taking account of evidence of children in common areas — shoes, toys, backpacks — would have revealed as much.”
Prosecutors had sought the reconsideration of bail following Spring’s indictment by a federal grand jury last month.
Spring, 61, was arrested and charged in September following a 21/2 month investigation that was triggered by a discovery by the Merrimack College information technology department. Spring, who at the time was the chairman of the college’s civil engineering department, was using a school-owned laptop computer to view child pornography, prosecutors say.
Prosecutors conceded in their motion that they had no idea there were children in the three condominiums in the old Victorian-style home at 4 Alden St., until after Spring’s release. Nor did they realize the proximity of the condo to Holten-Richmond Middle School.
“After the hearing, and after (Spring’s) release, the government learned that two children lived with their mother in another unit in the residential building, and that the children were required to walk past the defendant’s unit and his open door to get to and from their home,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Eva Piemonte Stacey, the prosecutor in the case. “Since the defendant’s release and home confinement, the children’s mother moved the children from their home with her, and sent them to live with their father.”
That knowledge apparently came from reports in The Salem News and other media after the mother’s arrest on charges of assault and battery and breaking and entering, during a heated encounter with Spring over whether he would agree to move out. Earlier this month, the charges against Nicole Pelletier were continued without a finding for a year and will be dismissed if she stays out of further trouble.
Spring’s attorney, Charles Rankin, opposed the request to reopen the bail hearing, saying the details learned by prosecutors after Spring’s arrest were not new information but details that should have been determined during the 85-day investigation in the case, or even on the morning of Spring’s arrest, when investigators were conducting a search of Spring’s condo.
Rankin suggested that investigators did know about the children in the building but failed to tell prosecutors.
“It strains credulity to say that government investigators did not know that the mother and her children lived in the building before the Sept. 22 hearing,” Rankin wrote. “That the investigators failed to convey that information to prosecutors does not justify reopening the hearing.”
Rankin also argued that since the children were sent to live with their father, the information that they were living in the building was no longer relevant — something with which Hennessey, the judge, agreed.
And, Rankin argued, Spring is attempting to list and sell his condo.
It’s unclear whether that would have an effect on his bail conditions, since the $30,000 bond he posted for his release is secured in part by that condominium.