Former teacher gets 79 months in prison for child porn

Posted
Friday December 30, 2011

BRATTLEBORO -- A former teacher at Brattleboro Union High School was sentenced Wednesday to 79 months in federal prison on two counts -- possessing and receiving child pornography.

The case against Eric Achenbach, now 62, began in November 2008 when two deer hunters found pornographic images of minors stored in a box underneath a wooden platform in the woods near Achenbach's house in Vernon.

A subsequent search of Achenbach's home turned up more than 1,000 images of child pornography and erotica, including images of infants being sexually assaulted and of the defendant engaged in sexual conduct with a doll.

Also found were pictures Achenbach had taken of two children, which he had digitally manipulated to create child pornography.

"We have no evidence to suggest that the pictures Mr. Achenbach produced were ever disseminated across the Internet," said Assistant United States Attorney Barbara Masterson.

Achenbach was initially charged in Windham District Court, but the charges were later dropped when the U.S. Attorney's Office took over the case.

Masterson said there is no evidence Achenbach took pictures of anyone other than his two victims and there is also no evidence that he ever molested anyone, including any of his students.

"I am not aware of any former students who came forward and said they had direct contact with him," said Masterson.

Direct contact means the placing on of hands.

Achenbach taught in southern Vermont for more than 31 years. According to employment records, he was hired to teach digital media and computer graphics programming at Brattleboro High School in 1985. He was placed on administrative leave in December 2008 and surrendered his teaching license in January 2009.

According to a transcript taken during his federal detention hearing in April 2010, the court received "numerous letters from members of the community replete with testimonials about Mr. Achenbach ... Many of these testimonials assert that the defendant is not a danger to others in the community."

But, continues the transcript "A close reading of those letters reflect that the authors, along with the mental health providers, are unaware of the full scope of the exploitive conduct of the defendant."

That's not surprising in cases such as this, said Masterson.

"It's not uncommon that a person can have this dark secret and present to the world as a law-abiding citizen," said Masterson.

As part of the sentencing, Achenbach forfeited his share of the proceeds of the sale of his home on Fort Bridgman Road in Vernon, which will be used to pay restitution to his victims, and not just the two he took pictures of.

"There are victims in this case, which are the children depicted in the images that are available over the Internet," Masterson told the Reformer in 2010. "Some of them have been identified and are seeking restitution from anybody who possessed their images."

This would be to pay for counseling, lost wages, and "generally restoring them to the state where they would have been but for the fact that their images are on the Internet and people are downloading them," she said.

With good behavior, Achenbach could be released in 67 months, but will most likely be on probation for the rest of his life, said Masterson, who thanked the Brattleboro Police Department, Homeland Security, the Secret Service and the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force for helping to bring the case to a close.

She also singled out one local detective, Brattleboro Police Department's Internet Crimes Against Children Investigator Eric Johnson, for his diligence and professionalism.

"Eric did fine work on this case," said Masterson.

Achenbach was released with conditions on Wednesday and is expected to self-surrender on Feb. 21.

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160.


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