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Harper Woods Schools CFO charged with possession of child pornography

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published June 18, 2020

 James Dennis

James Dennis

HARPER WOODS — A former staff member with the Harper Woods School District has been charged with possessing sexually abusive material of children.

James Dennis, a 63-year-old Harper Woods resident, was employed as the chief financial officer of the school district. According to the district, Dennis was a third-party employee, and the allegations involve personal equipment and not any belonging to the school district.

According to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, an investigation by the Harper Woods Police Department culminated in the discovery of abusive material involving minors on several of Dennis’ electronic devices located inside his home in Harper Woods.

On May 14, he was charged with four counts of possession of child sexually abusive material and four counts of using a computer to commit a crime. He was issued a $100,000 personal bond and ordered not to have any contact with minors or use the internet except for work purposes.

Dennis’ lawyer, Sanford Schulman, said that his client is disputing that the material called into question is actually illegal.

“We are at the district court level at this point, and (my client) is claiming that three years ago, when he gave the investigators his computer, that all the material came from legal sites. This investigation has been going on for some time. I’ve never seen a case where all of the alleged child pornography came from legal sites such as Pornhub. I’ve done cases involving child pornography before, and (the material) always comes from the dark web or was sent from an individual. These are sites that get 600,000 hits a day. If you have a 19-year-old who looks like a 15-year-old, that’s still not illegal.”

Investigators said they will not share any details regarding a case that is still open.

Harper Woods Superintendent Steven McGhee confirmed that Dennis is no longer employed by Harper Woods Schools and stressed that the district is taking the matter very seriously.

“I cannot comment at this time since it is an open investigation. I can confirm his services were separated from the district the day after the charges were filed,” said McGhee. “Protecting our students is our top priority. The district will continue to cooperate with our community partners in law enforcement.”