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Judge gives former RR teacher 5 years on child porn charges

David Harper

David Harper

A former Rio Rancho teacher has been sentenced to five years in jail on child pornography charges.

Thirteenth Judicial District Court Judge George Eichwald sentenced David Harper, 49, on Sept. 30 to 27 years in prison with all but five years suspended, five to 20 years of supervised probation and five to 20 years of parole after his release, and registering as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Under a plea agreement in July, Harper pleaded no contest to three counts of manufacturing child pornography, while three other counts of manufacturing child pornography and two counts of possession of child pornography were dropped. Each charge of manufacturing child pornography, a second-degree felony, carries a basic sentence of nine years in prison, but the plea agreement set out a total jail term of not less than five but not more than 10 years.

Harper worked at Ernest Stapleton Elementary School from 1995-2008.

The recent charges arose when his probation officer conducted a random home visit at Harper’s house at 604 East Lake Drive in September 2012 and saw sexually explicit photos of children on his computer monitor. Harper was on probation after a child endangerment conviction in 2008 in New Jersey.

A forensics search of Harper’s USB storage drive unearthed six collages made by positioning multiple pornographic images of children on the computer screen and taking a screen shot, according to the criminal complaint. Making the collages constitutes manufacturing child pornography by creating an image that didn’t exist before.

According to the complaint, investigators also found two explicit photos of a girl who appeared to be younger than 12 on Harper’s desktop computer.

In 2008, Harper was vacationing in New Jersey, where he owned a second home, when citizens complained to police that he was taking pictures of children on a beach, according to Observer reports.

When a New Jersey detective contacted Rio Rancho Police, officers searched Harper’s local home, found the photos and charged him with 10 counts of possession of child pornography.

However, Sandoval County prosecutors dropped the charges after District Judge Louis McDonald ruled the evidence was inadmissible because the search warrant used to obtain it was illegal.

Rio Rancho Public Schools spokeswoman Kim Vesely has said once allegations about Harper’s behavior in New Jersey surfaced, the district investigated whether any local children had been victimized. There was no evidence that happened, she said.

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