The former maintenance director of the Petersburg School District appeared in a Juneau courtroom today (Wednesday) after being charged with distribution and possession of child pornography. 45-year-old Tye Leif Petersen has worked for the school district since 2002 and resigned from his job Tuesday. He left town that day and was arrested in Juneau, on his way to Seattle, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Petersen faces federal charges of distribution of child pornography, receipt of child pornography and possession of pornography involving a child under 12 years old.
In a criminal complaint filed Tuesday, agents with the FBI allege that Petersen exchanged sexually graphic photos and video via email between April and July of this year, with another trafficker of child pornography, named in the complaint only as Tennessee John Doe. The criminal complaint says, “Most of the emails contained video or picture attachments depicting child pornography of very young children being sexually molested.”
The FBI says the internet account involved was registered to Petersen at his home address in Petersburg. Agents executed a federal search warrant there Friday and say they found child pornography on ten CDs there. The FBI also says Petersen admitted to receiving the illegal images and provided agents with access to three email accounts.
The FBI and local law enforcement searched Petersburg’s school buildings and the school computer network Saturday morning. Petersburg’s school superintendent says the district cooperated fully and there’s no evidence any local children were involved. In a letter sent home to parents Tuesday, Superintendent Rob Thomason wrote, “No downloading of photographs or other inappropriate material took place on site, during work hours, or using district computer equipment.”
Petersen did not enter a plea Wednesday. The court ordered that he remain in custody through the trial because agents say he was arrested while trying to flee the state and the nature of the charges presents a danger to the community.
Petersen has been appointed a public defender and the case will be tried in Juneau.
Assistant US Attorney Jack Schmidt says, if convicted, Petersen could be sentenced to a maximum of 20-years in prison and fined 250-thousand dollars for each charge.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for November 18th.
KTOO’s Matt Miller contributed to this report.