Teacherwants evidence tossed
BRATTLEBORO -- A lawyer representing former Brattleboro Union High School teacher Eric Achenbach wants evidence against his client thrown out because he says it was illegally seized.
Achenbach, 60, is facing charges of possessing child pornography after members of the Vernon Police Department collected a box of images from his property.
Achenbach was in court Thursday with his attorney John Mabie, who said in court papers filed last month that the material was taken without a warrant from a platform on Achenbach’s land.
Mabie also argues that other material taken after a warrant was obtained should not be considered in the case, because the request was only made after the illegal seizure was carried out.
Vernon police reported to Achenbach’s land on Dec. 3, 2008, after two hunters said they found the box containing sexually explicit photographs of minors in the woods behind the Mountain View Seventh-day Adventist Church along Route 142.
Achenbach’s name was on some of the folders in the box.
Vernon Police Chief Kevin Turnley, who was in Windham Superior Court, Thursday, said he noticed no property lines, fences, or tree markings when he reported to the scene on Dec. 3.
Turnley said he parked his cruiser at the church, where he met Vernon police officer Mary Beth Hebert and the two hunters who allegedly found the container the previous week.
The group walked up the steep hill behind the church, Turnley said, until they got to a wooden platform which held a plastic case with the materials.
The officers looked at some of the photographs and then removed the plastic box, taking it to the Vernon Police Station.
In court Thursday, Turnley said he did not know whose property he was on at the time, though he could see Achenbach’s house through the woods.
In 18 years on the Vernon force, Turnley said he had never requested a search warrant before.
Vernon land surveyor Dale Merritt was also in court Thursday.
Merritt, under the request of Mabie, surveyed Achenbach’s land on May 27.
Merritt said the platform was, in fact, on Achenbach’s property.
Merritt said trees were marked back in December when the officers found the pornography and he said there were iron spikes along the line, though he inserted clearer posts after he did his work this year.
Mark Anderson, from the state’s attorney’s office and the Windham County Sheriff’s Department, obtained a search warrant and more pornography was taken from Achenbach’s home on Dec. 12. Computers were also seized from BUHS on Dec. 22.
Achenbach was hired to teach at BUHS in July of 1985 and was a technology teacher at the time of his arrest.
He was put on administrative leave by Windham Southeast Superintendent Ron Stahley on Dec. 12, after police searched his home.
The Vermont Department of Education on Jan. 16 revoked Achenbach’s teaching license after he was arrested for possession of child pornography.
Thursday’s hearing was continued until Aug. 14 because at least two witnesses were not able to make it to court.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.
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