Professor denied bond in child porn case

Diego Fasolini – the part-time Italian-language professor arrested Oct. 28 for possession of child pornography – has been held without bond since his arrest, after police found more than 100,000 images of young children on his personal external hard drive, court documents reveal.

Fasolini appeared in federal court Oct. 29, where a judge ordered him to remain in police custody pending a detention hearing and preliminary hearing Tuesday. At the hearing Tuesday, The Hatchet learned Fasolini is not a U.S. citizen, but declined his right to notify his home country’s consulate of his arrest. The detention and preliminary hearing was ultimately postponed until Thursday, as Fasolini’s assigned public defender, Mary Petras, was unable to appear in court. Petras did not return request for comment.

On Oct. 22, Fasolini, 42, asked a GW technical support analyst to back up the contents of an old external hard drive onto a new one. Three days later, the analyst attempted to open one or two files on the new hard drive to make sure the transfer was successful – a routine procedure – and found an image of a young girl being sexually abused. The analyst alerted the University Police Department to the incident, which immediately alerted the Metropolitan Police Department to the matter, University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said last week.

MPD Detective Timothy Palchak interviewed Fasolini Oct. 26 at the UPD office. During the interview, Fasolini said he had images of adult pornography and possibly “younger porn,” according to court documents.

Palchak obtained a search warrant for the hard drive Oct. 28, which uncovered more than 100,000 videos and images in folders and subfolders, including pictures of prepubescent children duct-taped and bound, according to court documents. Court documents contain graphic descriptions of the images, which Fasolini categorized into folders separated by gender.

Representatives from the Department of Justice declined to comment if the amount of child pornography allegedly in Fasolini’s possession is a typical amount for police to uncover. They instead pointed to recent court decisions on individuals who possessed child pornography. On Oct. 20, a man from Texas received 35 years in federal prison for possessing and distributing 23,000 images of child pornography, as well as possessing false identification documents.

Michelle Collins, director of the Exploited Child Unit at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said she could not comment on Fasolini’s case, but said 100,000 images of child pornography is on the larger side for police to find in these types of cases.

Collins added that with the speed of the Internet and the increased amount of memory space on hard drives, she has seen a growing trend of law enforcement officials seizing larger quantities of child pornography from offenders.

Fasolini began teaching at GW this fall, and is suspended from the University pending an investigation into the incident, Sherrard said last week. The two Italian courses he was teaching this semester have been reassigned, Sherrard said.

Fasolini has been a visiting Italian-language professor at colleges and universities across the country, staying at many of the locations for only one year. These include a current stint at George Mason University, the University of Miami from 2008 to 2009, Tulane University from 2004 to 2005 and Vassar College from 2002 to 2003.

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