- Associated Press - Thursday, October 2, 2014

PITTSBURGH (AP) - An award-winning contemporary literature professor plans to resign from a northwestern Pennsylvania college after federal agents arrested him on child pornography charges.

Kirk Nesset, 57, of Meadville, was released after appearing Wednesday before a federal magistrate in Erie following his arrest in Meadville, about 90 miles north of Pittsburgh, where he lives and has taught at Allegheny College.

College President James Mullen Jr. said Thursday that Nesset advised the college of the charges and that he would be resigning.

“That was the first we ever heard any such allegations,” Mullen said, adding the school will cooperate with law enforcement if asked.

According to a nine-page FBI complaint, an agent in Arizona traced computer files shared in a peer-to-peer network to Nesset’s computer address in August. Nesset listed physical addresses in Prescott, Arizona and Meadville at the time.

The agent in Arizona traced two movies of girls who appeared to be 8 years old having sex with men to Nesset’s computer address, and a Pennsylvania state trooper in September continued the investigation similarly and located another movie featuring a naked 6-year-old girl, the complaint said.

Armed with that information, the FBI searched Nesset’s home Wednesday and seized an external computer hard drive believed to contain 550,000 images and pictures on it, the complaint said.

Nesset agreed to be interviewed and told agents he stored child pornography on the hard drive, the complaint said.

Nesset’s public defender, Thomas Patton, declined comment Thursday. Nesset didn’t return a message left at the home telephone number listed in the criminal complaint.

According to his website, Nesset is an award-winning author of short stories and poetry, most notably the Drue Heinz Literature Prize. That award is given annually by the University of Pittsburgh Press. The winner receives $15,000 and has their work published. Nesset won the prize in 2007 for a collection of short stories called “Paradise Road.”

“There is no adequate way to describe the shock and outrage these allegations have elicited from every member of our community, myself included,” Mullen said. “The sexual exploitation of young children through pornography is a heinous thing and a serious crime.”

Nesset faces up to 40 years in federal prison if convicted, including a mandatory five-year minimum.

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