Officials suspended a professor at Eastern Washington University on Wednesday after it became public that thousands of child pornography files were stored on his campus computer.
Russell Boggs, 42, had collected the illegal photographs - some showing children as young as 3 - since April, search warrants show.
Fellow geology professors at the university, where Boggs has worked for 13 years, told investigators they’ve also seen him print pictures of naked women on office equipment.
Although they learned of the photographs in early June, EWU didn’t suspend Boggs until the day after two search warrants detailing the case were made public.
He is being investigated for possessing photographs of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, but has not been charged with any crime.
On Wednesday, police said his wife, Peggy-Lynn Boggs, 45, may be a suspect in the case. She claims the photographs were collected for a research project she’s working on.
Russell Boggs said Wednesday he wasn’t searching for pornography, but seeking photographs of naked children “like the ones you may see in magazine ads.” He did not consider the material he had on file as child pornography but hadn’t looked at every photograph yet, he said.
“I maybe saw one or two things that I got rid of that may be considered child pornography,” Boggs said.
The couple also accused the university of blowing the case out of proportion in a political move to dump him from the faculty.
EWU police and detectives from the Spokane Police Department searched Boggs’ geology office and his house on Third Street in Cheney on June 9. They went through hundreds of computer disks which showed Boggs ordered the pornography from private electronic mail users over the Internet, as well as from foreign bulletin boards.
The photographs showed girls engaged in sex acts with boys and each other. Many had a statement printed on the side offering more pictures of “real young girls” followed by an e-mail address.
Spokane Detective Jerry Keller, who helped EWU police, said looking at child pornography on a computer screen is not a crime because it is not a tangible possession in that form.
The minute the pictures are downloaded onto a computer or printed, however, it becomes a state and federal offense, he said.
Keller said it is nearly impossible to track where the pornography originated. “You can get porn easily on computers and most of the time you don’t know where it’s coming from,” Keller said. “It’s free. And finding out who’s sending it is extremely difficult.”
EWU officials first became interested in Boggs’ computer last year, when they suspected he was using it to keep records on the jewelry business he runs with his wife.
University spokeswoman Gayle Ogden said officials reminded Boggs of the policy forbidding personal use of state-owned equipment. She said his work also was being reviewed for not meeting performance standards as an associate professor.
Geology department officials looking into Boggs’ computer use eventually found addresses for pornography files in his office. Later, they found the photographs and a criminal investigation was launched, Ogden said.
Boggs, who teaches two geology classes per quarter, earns $35,608 a year.
His wife said Boggs gathered the pornographic material for her.
Peggy-Lynn Boggs, a EWU graduate student in English, said she was comparing the work of two erotic writers, D.H. Lawrence and Milan Kundera. Both write explicitly about children and sex, she claimed, and she needed to see photographs of child pornography to “identify with the characters.”
Her husband got them for her, she said.
“I asked him to edit the heavy stuff out because (the porn) is difficult for me,” she said. “I didn’t think it’d be a problem. I mean, the university provides it. They’re providing the access.”
The couple said they didn’t find out about the investigation until their house was searched last month.
Prior to that, Boggs filed a theft report on the computer at his office, unaware campus police confiscated it. EWU security took the report without telling him of the investigation.
“It’s terrible the way they handled this,” his wife said Wednesday. “My husband is a brilliant man with a gentle spirit. This is all just a political move to fire him.”
Campus police on Tuesday tried to convince District Court Commissioner Vance Peterson to keep secret both search warrants describing the investigation.
Sgt. John Murphy said Boggs had not been interviewed and may run if he learned he could be charged with a crime. Murphy also said police were unable to find Boggs for several days.
Deputy Prosecutor Carol Davis argued there were victims to protect, although she doesn’t know who they are.
Actually, Boggs knew of the investigation and was at his Cheney home this week.
Dan Finney, a Spokesman-Review attorney, argued the information should not remain secret to “protect the public relations concerns of the university.”
Peterson agreed, ruling both warrants be made public. “If he’s already absconded, he knows he’s being investigated,” he said. “The bell’s rung, the barn door’s open… The public has a right to know.”