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UND aviation professor accused of having child porn

A UND professor was arrested Thursday after police said they found child pornography on his university-owned computer, making him the third UND staff member to face child porn charges.

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A UND professor was arrested Thursday after police said they found child pornography on his university-owned computer, making him the third UND staff member to face child porn charges.

Eric Hewitt Basile, 37, appeared Friday afternoon in Grand Forks District Court via video from the Grand Forks Correctional Facility on eight charges of possession of certain materials prohibited, all Class C felonies. He faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each count.

On Thursday, UND administration requested a search of Basile's computer in Ryan Hall, according to documents. UND Police learned Basile was suspected of using his work computer to facilitate inappropriate relationships with students.

He was placed on administrative leave that day.

A North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigations agent was brought in to conduct a forensic examination of the computer. That examination revealed child pornography, which led to a Grand Forks District Judge signing a search warrant, according to court documents.

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Detectives from the Grand Forks Narcotics Task Force, UND Police Department, BCI and Homeland Security executed a search warrant on Basile's residence on Level Plains Circle in Grand Forks. Agents seized multiple digital devices, which were examined for criminal content by the BCI.

According to court documents:

In an interview with detectives, Basile admitted to having child porn images and videos; he said he had collected about 100 images and videos from a website and stored them in a Dropbox account. Basile also told officers he deleted the folder containing the images once he was placed on administrative leave.

Detectives said they were able to uncover eight images on Basile's computer. These images depict male and female children between 1 and 3 years old being sexually assaulted by adult males, according to the affidavit.

Basile has been an associate professor in the UND John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences since 2014. He taught basic attitude instrument flying, general aviation operations and management, aviation safety and IFR regulations and procedures.

Basile earned his master's degree in aviation from UND in 2013, according to his university staff page. He was elected to UND's Senate in 2015. He also served on the assessment committee, scholarship committee and as a faculty adviser to the Student Aviation Management Association.

Basile is the third UND staff member to face child pornography charges in the past year.

On Friday, former UND Police Officer Paul Bradley Meagher pleaded guilty in U.S. Federal Court in Fargo to one count of receiving child porn and two counts of possessing child porn. He had been collecting more than 100,000 images and videos of child porn since early 2006, according to prosecutors.

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He will be sentenced Nov. 29.

In July, Robert William Beattie, a former UND chairman of the Family and Community Medicine Department, was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for having 3,233 images and 100 videos of child porn.

UND President Mark Kennedy shared a message with students and staff Friday regarding Basile's arrest.

"I am troubled to inform you that on Thursday, September 8, Eric Basile, a faculty member in the College of Aerospace Sciences, was arrested on eight counts of certain materials prohibited," the statement said. "During a search and investigation by law enforcement, child pornography was found on his work-issued computer. Both the University and I take this seriously and the University is cooperating fully with the investigation. Mr. Basile has been placed on administrative leave. The conditions of his administrative leave include a ban from campus property and a no contact order with UND students, faculty and staff."

The investigation on Basile is ongoing and anyone who has concerns or further information regarding the case should call UND Police at (701) 777-0846.

Related Topics: CRIME
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