School official arrested on child porn charge

Kevin O'Connell leaves federal court in Central Islip.

Kevin O'Connell leaves federal court in Central Islip. (Oct. 16, 2012) (Credit: Ed Betz)

Travel deals

An administrator at the Roosevelt school district was arrested Tuesday at his Patchogue home and charged with receiving child pornography, according to a federal complaint.

Kevin O'Connell, 51, the same former Bellport High School principal who said he refused to participate in a grade-fixing scandal involving a star football player, was arrested when federal agents executed a search warrant after they traced an Internet address advertising three video files available for sharing to his home.

"A preliminary forensic examination of computer equipment found in the residence . . . has confirmed the presence of numerous videos of apparent child pornography," the complaint said.

O'Connell, assistant to the superintendent for secondary instruction, told agents "he had battled with this his entire life, and that he only viewed child pornography within his own home," the complaint said.

He told them that he had no still images and that he viewed video files "and deleted them so that no one would find them," according to the complaint.

At first, O'Connell, a key figure in the state's efforts to bolster teacher quality and student academic performance in the only district ever taken over by the state, told agents that he had only one thumb drive containing work information on his desk at home, but agents found three more in the pocket of his jacket, and he "admitted that he had placed the drives in his jacket to conceal them," according to the complaint.

Videos found on the drives showed boys, about 10 to 14 years old, engaging in illegal sex acts with adult males, the complaint said.

O'Connell was arraigned in U.S. District Court in Central Islip before U.S. Magistrate E. Thomas Boyle, and was released on $700,000 bond under several conditions, including home detention with electronic monitoring and no contact with anyone younger than 16. He faces a mandatory minimum of 5 years and up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

His attorney, federal public defender Randi Chavis, declined to comment. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alixandra Smith also did not comment.

O'Connell in December 2011 filed a lawsuit against the South Country Central Board of Education; Joseph Cipp Jr., the former superintendent of the district and former football coach; Nelson Briggs, an assistant superintendent; and Victor Correa, the president of the board of education.

The lawsuit, pending in State Supreme Court, says O'Connell was terminated because he would neither fix football standout Ryan Sloan's grades so he could be eligible for a scholarship to Syracuse University nor order the student's math teacher to do so.

An investigation during the past school year found that Sloan's grades were improperly changed. Cipp resigned in March and some school officials were reassigned.

South Country school board member Rob Powell said he was "floored" by the allegations. "I thought he was a very professional person at all times. I never had any problems with him. I didn't see this coming at all."

Roosevelt school district officials confirmed Tuesday afternoon in a prepared statement that O'Connell had been suspended from his assistant superintendent's job and that steps had been taken to ensure that O'Connell would not be allowed on school grounds.

With Jo Napolitano and John Hildebrand

This story has been changed to reflect that the lawsuit filed by Kevin O'Connell is in State Supreme Court.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Related Stories

Follow Newsday on social media

advertisement | advertise on newsday