UR graduate student Gilbert Kirton was jailed on felony child porn charges after police allegedly recovered a hard drive containing more than 10,000 illegal images from a campus dumpster hours before it was emptied.

Kirton told police that Director of Graduate Studies Tom Hahn tipped him off on an investigation after UR Security officers allegedly leaked word of the investigation to Hahn, who will be stepping down from his post.

The hard drive that was discovered also contained ‘over 140 recently deleted video clips,” senior investigator Jim Newell wrote in a felony complaint.

This hard drive included ‘children engaged in sexual bestiality,” according to the report.
Newell, one of those who examined the hard drive’s contents, said that in the course of his career, the most horrific images he has seen involved infants. Newell also said the confiscated images were among the most disturbing he had ever seen.

‘Dr. Tom Hahn told me I was being investigated for inappropriate computer use by Dan Lafferty of UR Security,” Kirton said in a deposition three Sundays ago.

The next day, Kirton left his on-campus job and returned to his residence in the Goler House.

‘I downloaded my personal data from my computer to my USB devices,” he said. ‘I didn’t put any of my pornography on them; I left it back on the computer.”

He dismantled the computer and put its pieces in plastic bags, which he discarded in six receptacles in and near the Goler House.

The following day, he scheduled an appointment with University Counseling Center to discuss his feelings about being under investigation.

‘I had an idea it was about child porn,” he said in the deposition.

The next day, on Oct. 1, a police investigator and UR Security Investigator Daniel Lafferty interviewed Kirton at the Goler House.

Kirton told investigators where he had stashed the computer parts and signed a document allowing state police to search his apartment.

The document said, ‘I fully understand that I do not have to consent to this search. No promises, threats or intimidation was used by [the police] in order to obtain my consent.”

But the consent may have come while Kirton was under duress.

‘He had some issues after we initially interviewed him,” Newell said. The interview resulted in Kirton walking across the street to Strong Memorial Hospital for psychological care.

Meanwhile, police searched the trash, found the discarded items and arrested Kirton at the hospital when he was discharged.

‘Half the dumpsters had already been emptied, so we only got lucky on two of the six dumpsters. Another 12 hours and the dumpster would have been empty,” Newell said. ‘We’d have got nothing.”

English Department Chair John Michael said Hahn would voluntarily step down as director of graduate studies. No replacement has yet been named.

‘Until we get this strange situation sorted out, he thought it would be best,” Michael said. ‘I hope it will only be until this is sorted out.”

‘We’re not targeting [Hahn],” Newell said. ‘But if you hinder a case by telling somebody something they have no right to know, that can be obstruction.”

When asked if UR Security had instructed Hahn not to mention the call to Kirton, Michael responded, ‘I’m sure if they’d told him very clearly not to, he wouldn’t.”

Although Hahn has not retained a lawyer, he has been advised not to discuss the matter. ‘We’re not lawyers and we don’t know the ins and outs,” Michael said.

Kirton has taught CAS 105, an introductory writing course taken mainly by freshmen, including some students who are under 18, each semester since fall of 2005.

The curriculum was designed by Kirton and the courses were entitled ‘Fairies, Hos ‘ Mistletoe” and ‘Provocative Solicitations: The Art of Seduction in Advertising.” Both descriptions of the courses included sexuality references.

Sophomore Arielle Hoffman, who took the course last spring, complained to Kirton’s supervisor at the time that his sexually-charged interpretations made her feel uncomfortable.

‘It’s not like we’re these prim and proper girls who are uncomfortable talking about that stuff, but the class was about fairy tales and he would graphically relate them to sexual things,” she said. ‘I dreaded going to class.”

Director of the undergraduate writing program Deborah Rosen-Knill said she takes complaints very seriously, but that Kirton was selected to teach the course based on his years of teaching and course evaluations.

In fact, he won an Edward Curtis Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. ‘That’s based on student evaluations,” Rosen-Knill said.

A replacement instructor has been selected to take over Kirton’s classes.

‘I’ll be in the class next time it meets with the new instructor,” Rosen-Knill said. ‘We’ll make changes no one gets stuck with anything they’re not comfortable with. His syllabus may deal with Grimm’s fairy tales and Freudian analysis, and some students may not be able to handle that, for whatever reasons, and there will be other options.”

Many students enjoyed Kirton’s teaching style, described variously as ‘outgoing,” ‘flamboyant” and ‘enjoyable.” But sophomore Charlie Clements, who took his course last spring, felt differently.

‘Most of what we were talking about was children and fairy tales, and he made it sexual,” he said. ‘Whether it was incest or perversion, he made everything sexual and everything inappropriate. I was like, “fairy tales are supposed to be fun.'”

‘Looking back on it now, you can definitely see how that happened,” Clements said, referring to the arrest. ‘There were so many signs pointing in that direction. Kind of the creepiest part is that it didn’t surprise us.”

Rosiak is a member of the class of 2009.



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