Oak Park child porn suspect on electronic monitor

Columbia College prof released into father's custody

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By BILL DWYER

First reported 11/20/2009 5:28 p.m.

When residents of the 1000 block of N. Taylor Avenue heard a helicopter circling at 6:30 a.m. Thursday, they didn't know that would mean the federal arrest of a neighbor.

Within several hours, cyber-crimes agents from the Chicago office of the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, backed by Oak Park police, served a search warrant on the house at 1000 N. Taylor, seized a computer and took Kevin G. Fuller into custody. Neighbors say the 41-year-old biology professor at Columbia College was a quiet and polite man who lived in a modest corner house, kept the back yard well maintained and tended a parkway garden. A federal judge says he's a danger to the community.

Fuller was arrested and charged with one count of transporting and shipping child pornography. According to a criminal complaint filed Nov. 19, "images of infants and prepubescent children engaged in sexually explicit activity" were found on Fuller's home computer.

When he faced U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Cox in U.S. District Court on Thursday afternoon, she ordered him held without bond at the Metropolitan Correctional Center through the weekend. On Monday, when he again faced Cox, she released him into the custody of his father, who has moved temporarily to Chicago from the family home in Georgia. The judge ordered that Fuller wear an electronic ankle bracelet while living in the downtown Chicago apartment that his father is renting. She specified that Fuller not use the Internet and that he have no contact with children.

The $100,000 bond that Fuller was released on is secured by two pieces of property owned by his parents. Through his attorney, Keith Scherer of Chicago, Fuller waived a preliminary hearing. Fuller's case will now be bound over to a federal grand jury. Scherer did not return a call seeking comment. According to his firm's Web site, one of Scherer's specialties is representing people accused of federal computer crimes.

On the day of his arrest, Fuller waived his Miranda rights and agreed to be interviewed. According to the affidavit, he said he used his home computer to both receive and distribute images of child pornography and to engage in e-mail discussions about sexual activity with infants and children.

Neighbors recall a quite, polite man

Greg Mistak, who lives with his wife and three children across the street from Fuller's address, said he was returning from a trip to the store early Thursday morning when he saw an Oak Park squad car and several large black SUVs around the house.

He didn't realize what had happened until he saw the story online Friday morning.

"He'd be out working in the yard," said Mistak, who noted that while he didn't know Fuller well, they shared an interest in beautifying their corner parkways with flowers and plantings.

"It's kind of a cliché," Mistak said. "He was quiet. A nice, personable guy."

That assessment was echoed by a neighbor 200 feet east on Berkshire. He said he saw Fuller and an older man coming and going, but didn't know their names, just that they were "good neighbors" who didn't cause problems and who "kept their yard up."

"That's really all I care about," the man said.

The 1,500-square-foot house at 1000 N. Taylor is owned by Chicago radio personality Bruce DuMont, who is president and CEO of Chicago's Museum of Broadcast Communications. Neighbors and public records indicate Fuller has lived at the address since 2003.

The men appear to have known each other since at least 1997. A newspaper article from that year in Fuller's hometown paper in Rockmart, Ga., notes that Fuller met President Bill Clinton at a Museum of Broadcast Communications fundraiser at the Chicago Cultural Center, and quotes DuMont. On the museum's Web site Friday, Fuller appeared in two photos, one at May 2009 banquet and another with the caption "MBC staff, volunteers and Junior Board." Those images have since been removed.

There was no answer at the door of DuMont's house Friday morning. DuMont has not returned phone messages left with his secretary or replied to e-mails.

Google was subpoenaed

The charge on the criminal complaint against Fuller is specific about a file sent in April. The affidavit details file sharing and messages that go as far back as February 2008.

In October, federal agents subpoenaed Google for access to an e-mail account that Fuller had with the Internet company. Found among those records, according to the affidavit, were images and messages about sexual abuse of children. Also found in that search was a Columbia College e-mail address, which was listed as the secondary address for Fuller's gmail account. Fuller used a computer at Columbia College dozens of times to access his home computer, according to the affidavit. That home computer, the affivadit quotes Fuller as saying, "belonged to, and was exclusively used by, him."

Fuller is the chair of the Columbia College Council and an associate professor of biology in Columbia's science and math department. Columbia's student newspaper reported Friday that Fuller's classes are being covered by another professor and that the school is "closely monitoring the situation" and will "take appropriate actions as needed."

'Not a victimless crime'

Dan Kill, a licensed clinical social worker in Oak Park, says that without a comprehensive psychological assessment of a person, he can't tell what would addict that person to child pornography. Kill did say, however, that most recent research on the subject suggests "a correlation between addiction to child pornography and one or both of two factors: depression and the subject's own childhood sexual abuse."

Kill, who is president of Thrive Counseling Center in Oak Park, draws a clear distinction between child pornography of any kind and pornographic images featuring consenting adults.

"It's not a victimless crime, as with adult pornography," Kill said, noting that adults can give their consent. Child pornography, he said, wreaks "devastating effects on the children and adolescents that (are) destroying their lives."

Fuller, a Georgia native, was a high school academic star who graduated from Duke University in 1990. He received a doctorate from the University of Chicago in molecular genetics and cell biology in 1994.

Transporting child pornography carries a mandatory minimum penalty of five years in prison. The maximum penalty is 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

CONTACT: bdwyer@wjinc.com

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