Feds: Preschool teacher's journal details interactions with young girls

12:12 AM, Aug 8, 2012   |    comments
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Prosecutors did not suggest the journal contained descriptions of abuse, instead saying the 45-year-old kept detailed records of his physical affection such as hugs and tickles shared with dozens of female students.

In the journal, a federal agent testified Moe talked of being alone with female students - in one instance - making sure the child got off his lap before her mother arrived. Selected entries of the journals, as transcribed by the prosecution, indicate Moe carefully recorded the children's reactions to his affections.

Prosecutors redacted the names of the students and replaced them with "Minor One, Two, etc." The numbering system indicated entries naming more than 100 different children.

"Did hold [name withheld by prosecutors] by the waist briefly, and she didn't flinch," one entry read.

"Had [name withheld] by the hips, and she was fine by that," another read.

"I was overly affection with her, but I love her so," an entry read. "No more of that."

"Gave her a kiss on the cheek, and no bad reaction," Moe wrote of one student. "I love her so much."

"I only let my family tickle me," Moe recalled one girl telling him. "She's obviously been coached."

What prosecutors described as "grooming behavior," defense attorney Paul McCormick said was a record of benign, caring interactions between a preschool teacher and his students. McCormick did not attempt to deny Moe was interested in child pornography but instead suggested that Moe build a "wall" between his online activities and his professional interactions with children.

Prosecutors revealed the existence of the journal at a Tuesday detention hearing in Denver federal court. They are making the case to Magistrate Judge Michael Hegarty that Moe is a danger to the community and should not be released pending trial.

The judge seemed skeptical that the journal was a smoking gun. Instead, Judge Hegarty suggested, it might simply be a child care worker's log of day-to-day activities chronicled in order to provide a defense against allegations of inappropriate conduct.

The judge also noted that while the journal included entries about Moe's frustration to attract the romantic attention of adult women, it did not contain overt sexual references to children.

At the same hearing, prosecutors told a judge that Moe's child-pornography collection was far larger than he initially admitted to federal agents.

Moe allegedly told federal agents he had about 200 images of child pornography. Instead, prosecutors say, 4,100 images of child pornography and child erotica have been found on just one of the more than 500 CDs seized from his home, along with six portable hard drives and two desktop computers. Child erotica, as explained to the court, consists of both legal and illegal images of children who may or may not be clothed.

A federal agent testified that forensic investigators have five to six terabytes of data to examine. Prosecutors have said it is too early in the investigation to determine if Moe produced child pornography using the children at Paddington, the elite preschool where he taught since 1993.

Moe resigned last week, and his attorney suggested during the detention hearing that Moe admits visiting "regrettable" child-pornography websites.

McCormick says Moe's stable family and lack of a criminal history indicate he is not a danger to the community.

"When someone has 'fessed up and come clean," McCormick told the judge. "They're well down the road to recovery."

The courtroom was packed with Paddington parents, who have been highly critical of the school's handling of the incident. The courtroom was so full, the judge allowed parents to sit in the jury box. They were positioned directly facing Moe, who was dressed in a prison jumpsuit and shackled. He avoided the gaze of parents and his facial expressions while listening to testimony appeared to morph from disgust to bemusement.

Some parents plugged their ears with their fingers as a federal agent on the stand described, in graphic detail, the child pornography found at Moe's home.

McCormick said while he understood the parents' anger at his client, he trusted the judge would make his decision on detention based on the facts.

"This is not the Roman Coliseum where it's a thumbs up, thumbs down decision by the community," McCormick said.

Prosecutors also disclosed previously-unreported information about an alleged incident 10 years ago when Moe was accused by a Paddington family of inappropriately touching their 3-year-old daughter.

After the July 2001 incident, the family met with school director Ann Solomon, who did not fulfill her requirement under Colorado law to report the incident to authorities, a federal agent testified.

A Paddington spokesman has said previously that the school has no record of the incident and likely did not report it to police and social services.

Special Agent Brian Palmer, who investigates child pornography cases for the Department of Homeland Security, testified at Tuesday's hearing that the 2001 allegation involved a young girl who was still learning English after being adopted from a Romanian orphanage.

Palmer says the girl's parents reported she kept repeating the phrase "Dave touch" and she pointed at her genitals. Palmer testified the girl's parents say Moe had changed their daughter's diaper in a section of the Paddington school building that wasn't being used at the time.

The family pulled their child from Paddington following the incident, Palmer said.

"They were under the impression Mr. Moe would be let go or fired as a result of the incident," Palmer told the court.

Judge Hegarty indicated that he would issue a ruling on detention within 24 hours of the hearing, which ended early Tuesday afternoon.

The judge appeared to struggle to reconcile the journal's contents with the lack of a proven allegation of sexual contact with children.

"There's no evidence of grooming," Judge Hegarty said. "There is an obsession with his interactions with small children."

"That is strange. It is odd. It is disconcerting. It is alarming," the judge said. "I don't want a horrific event occurring on my watch."

Late Tuesday afternoon, Paddington released a statement saying school leaders were "deeply affected" by the details of the hearing.

A school spokesman said Solomon was no longer involved with Paddington.

Her attorney, Greg Goldberg, issued a statement saying Solomon is cooperating with prosecutors.

"Her heart and thoughts are with the Paddington community and families at this time," Goldberg wrote. "Ann remains intensely sorry for the pain caused through Paddington's and her affiliation with David Moe, whose true nature was unknown to her, the school, parents, and the community." 

Founder and head of school Pippi Hambidge, who stepped down from those duties last week, resigned her seat on the three-member board Tuesday. An email to parents Tuesday included a statement from Hambidge that did not explicitly say she had resigned.

Hambidge has taken the brunt of criticism from parents who believe the school covered up Moe's wrongdoing. An email to high-profile defense attorney Pamela Mackey, who 9NEWS believes to be representing Hambidge, was not returned.

The school's Tuesday statement says Nancy Spillane, founder of the Lowell Whiteman Primary School in Steamboat Springs, will become the interim head of school next Monday. She replaces Hambidge, whose future on Paddington's board remains unclear.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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