STARKSBORO — Elementary school teacher, private guitar tutor and local musician Will J. Parini, 28, of Starksboro was arrested last Thursday, March 17, on a federal charge for one count of distributing child pornography. The arrest came exactly one week after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) executed a court-authorized search warrant for Parini’s Route 116 home in Starksboro.
As of March 18, Parini has been suspended from teaching in the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union (ANeSU) school district, where he taught music at Bristol Elementary School and Starksboro’s Robinson Elementary School. He is currently placed on home confinement and formal charges are pending.
Principal Dan Noel issued a letter on March 21 to Robinson Elementary parents, and Principal Catrina Dinapoli issued one to Bristol Elementary parents, which stated: “At this point in the investigation there is no evidence that supports that any of the children in our community were involved in any way … You must be the one to decide if, how and when to discuss this with your child … we have no plans to discuss this with students school wide, but we will be working to answer their questions as they arise.”
Noel redirected all comments to ANeSU Superintendent Evelyn Howard, who voiced no comment on the issue.
Meanwhile, parents of students in both schools were talking to their kids.
“I told (my son) that the FBI was investigating him for child pornography,” said Peg Pifer, 44, the mother of a six-grade student at Robinson Elementary School. “My son thought the FBI being involved was pretty serious. The first reaction was, ‘Oh, wow, the parents will be mad.’”
Pifer, meanwhile, was stunned.
“The kids really liked him, and he inspired many of them to be interested in music,” she said of Parini. “It was just shocking that there’s this other side. Nobody would’ve ever known.”
Jennie McGlynn Emmons — a specialist in child pornography and sexual exploitation investigations — is an FBI Special Agent responsible for investigating this case. According to Emmons’ affidavit, the trail that led to Parini began in San Antonio, Texas, when FBI San Antonio became aware of a 12-year-old boy who received and distributed child pornography via the Internet. The minor, who also produced pornographic images of himself, did not begin cooperating with the FBI until about Sept. 20, 2010.
“The minor had communicated with approximately 46 individuals for the purpose of exchanging child pornography,” read the affidavit. A person identified as Bill, using the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org, was one of those individuals.
According to the affidavit, “Between August 19, 2010, and September 21, 2010, ‘Bill Monday’ and the minor exchanged a series of e-mail messages for the purpose of trading child pornography. To date, there is no indication that ‘Bill Monday’ was aware that he was communicating with a minor. To date, there is no indication that ‘Bill Monday’ was one of the individuals to whom the minor sent child pornographic images of himself.”
The affidavit alleges that “Bill Monday” and the minor first came into contract through a Russian website that facilitates the trade of child pornography. And in an FBI provided e-mail on Aug. 25, as stated in the affidavit, “Bill Monday” wrote, “Just going on (the website) kind of freaks me out like someones going to bust my door down at 6am and arrest me. I know most of it is supposedly legal, but I don’t know what to believe.”
According to the FBI’s report, “Bill Monday” sent the minor one particular e-mail with a certain zip file. “The zip file contained approximately 53 images of minor males, most of whom are prepubescent,” according to the report. This exchange of child pornography is one of several recorded by the FBI involving “Bill Monday,” the affidavit says.
The series of correspondences gathered by the FBI between “Bill Monday” and the minor were all transmitted by e-mail using the address email@example.com.
The FBI sought to find out who was using that e-mail account by tracing the account owner’s IP address, a unique number assigned to computers that link to the Internet. According to the FBI, after Yahoo provided agents with the primary IP address for firstname.lastname@example.org, they traced that IP address to Comcast Cable Communications. FBI agents then subpoenaed Comcast to obtain the subscriber information for the IP address.
The affidavit states, “Comcast responded on Dec. 6, 2010, advising that this IP address was assigned during the dates and times specified in the subpoena to an account in the name of Will Parini, 2454 Route 116, Starksboro, Vermont.”
Following a March 10 FBI search of the house owned by Parini and his wife, he was arrested on March 17 and appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge John M. Conroy in a “preliminary hearing.” A motion for detention was denied, and Judge Conroy released Parini with applied restrictions.
“He (Judge Conroy) placed him (Parini) on home confinement with an electronic monitoring bracelet, he ordered that he have no contact with children, and prohibited him from using a computer, among others,” said U.S. Attorney Tristram Coffin, who added that a charge of one count of distributing child pornography is punishable by five to 20 years in prison.
But, like all cases, Coffin said, Parini is innocent until found guilty.
At present, Parini has not yet been formerly indicted. Coffin explained that the grand jury will first meet to consider the case. Before one is charged with a serious crime he or she has the right to have a grand jury decide whether to return the indictment. If the indictment were returned, Coffin said, “It needs to be returned within 30 days … and then that indictment will be made public. And, the next step in the process is Mr. Parini would be arraigned on an indictment.
“Typically criminal cases are decided within a year,” said Coffin.
To deal with the legal proceedings, Parini has employed the help of Middlebury-based attorney Peter F. Langrock.
“There is absolutely no indication and no evidence that he (Parini) in any way dealt improperly with any minor child,” said Langrock. “He has a long history of working with children both in the school system and outside the school system and there’s never been an untoward incident.”
“The government’s evidence that we’ve seen indicates that … they have evidence of some pictures on the Internet during a short period of time and the possibility of his sending some pictures to a government cooperating witness,” Langrock added. “As I understand it, the government is doing a forensic analysis of all his computer information. Exactly what will happen in terms of charges and such will be held off until that is completed and I don’t know how long that will be.”
Reporter Andrew Stein is at email@example.com.The Associated Press contributed to this report.