DETROIT — A former Fraser Public Schools teacher who will spend the next 15 years in jail for possessing child pornography said he is sorry for his actions and only wants to “better” himself.
“I would like to apologize for any humiliation I may have caused my family, my friends and the school district,” Gregory Austin, 33, said during his Aug. 14 sentencing in U.S. District Court before Judge Arthur Tarnow.
“I need help. I need mental help and help for the addiction of Vicoden mixed with alcohol that I had,” said Austin, who previously taught at Eisenhower Elementary School. “I can only better myself and get the help I need.”
Austin — who arrived in court in handcuffs wearing an orange jumpsuit that read “St. Clair County Jail” — will serve a 15-year sentence after he pleaded guilty to three counts of child pornography back in February. Attorneys Peter Torrice and Stephen Rabaut represented the defendant.
The former educator’s troubles with the law began last year. Court documents stated Roseville Police arrested him March 19, 2012, for his involvement in a drug transaction. As a result of the arrest and further investigation, detectives searched his cell phone and found “numerous images of suspected child pornography.”
According to court documents, a Roseville detective “discovered numerous sexually explicit photographs of real children, both male and female.”
The documents stated detectives also found text messages that “were sexual in nature and appeared to involve minors.” According to the documents, the pictures were self-photographs taken by the minors in front of mirrors.
Police turned the investigation over to the FBI Southeast Michigan Crimes Against Children Task Force. Court documents stated there were a total of 133 images on the cell phone, and 12 were identified as Fraser students. Austin was arrested and charged with production, receipt and possession of child pornography May 14, 2012.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Roth, who tried the case with Kevin Mulcahy, asked for a tougher sentence of 27 years under federal guidelines.
“We have an individual who created child pornography, he exploited (several) boys by lying to them and manipulating them,” Roth said. “The defendant had no consideration for the consequences of his actions. It was a total disregard (how) this would affect anyone.”
According to statements Roth made in court, Austin posed as someone named “Julie” to bait the teenagers, aged 14 to 17.
“He pretended to be ‘Julie’ with the hopes they would send pornographic images to ‘Julie,’” Roth said. Those images weren’t going to anyone by that name, but directly to Austin. “He was using ‘Julie’ to get pornography.”
“He was convincing them to send them pornographic images of themselves. As a teacher he deserves a harsher punishment than someone else,” Roth said. “I think the court, through its sentencing, can send a message to the community. It’s a horrible crime, and the punishment is going to be severe.”
“We know he reached out and targeted former students. We hold teachers to a higher expectation. We have somebody who was a teacher for seven years in an elementary school. He had to have seen kids that were abused…He was popular. He was very good with the kids,” Roth said.
Prior to the sentencing, Roth said the victims were asked if they wanted to address the court on the case. The U.S. attorney said they declined, as it would have been “humiliating” for them.
Rabaut asked for a 15-year punishment. He indicated under state guidelines, the sentence would only be 3-4 years.
“This is an individual who did dupe young boys but these were young men who were willing participants, but ultimately this wasn’t what they thought,” Rabaut said. “He has never been in trouble. He has been extremely remorseful for his conduct. He is humiliated.
“All he can do now is try to better himself and seek out the necessary counseling he (needs,)” Rabaut said. “Fifteen years is more than sufficient to send a message to the community.”
Austin’s conduct will “have a lifetime impact on the kids involved,” Tarnow said, mainly for two reasons.
“The violation of trust,” he said. “Those pictures are going to be out there.”
Tarnow would like to see Austin rehabilitate while incarcerated.
“I think it’s important you do get the care and treatment for Vicoden and alcohol and for your other problem,” Tarnow said. “You’ll be in the custody of the United States Bureau of Prisons.”
Tarnow said the jail would have an “intensive drug program and you’ll be sentenced to a facility that has mental health to make sure your conduct gets treated and under control. You can come out a much better person and most importantly a much safer person. I wish you luck.”
Tarnow put several other conditions on Austin’s sentencing upon his prison release. He must undergo mandatory drug testing, receive mental health counseling, comply with the Sex Offender’s registration in whichever state he resides and must not have any contact with his victims.
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