Friday, February 23, 2007

Federal authorities yesterday charged the former president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia, who serves as a leader of youth sports organizations in the state, with receiving and possessing child pornography.

Charles Rust-Tierney, 51, of Arlington, was named in a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alexandria and was taken into custody by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and Arlington County police.

His arrest was announced by Arlington police after an initial court appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry R. Poretz. The arrest, according to court documents, came after ICE agents and Arlington police — armed with federal warrants — searched Mr. Rust-Tierney’s home.

Mr. Rust-Tierney, a former public defender in the District, was identified in court documents as having coached various youth sport teams in and around Arlington County. He is being detained pending a preliminary hearing on Wednesday.

A call to his home went unanswered yesterday.

ICE officials had no comment on the case. One agent said in a sworn affidavit yesterday that Mr. Rust-Tierney has subscribed to various child-pornography Web sites over the past several years.

The affidavit states that Mr. Rust-Tierney also admitted to an agent yesterday that he had downloaded videos and photos, which were found in a search of his home, from child-porn sites.

ICE officials noted that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales last year created Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. attorneys’ offices nationwide, the program marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute people who exploit children via the Internet, as well as identify and rescue victims.

Speaking for the ACLU, Mr. Rust-Tierney was a leading proponent in the late 1990s for unrestricted access to the Internet, arguing before the Loudoun County Library Board that people would “continue to behave responsibly and appropriately while in the library” and that “maximum, unrestricted access to the valuable resources of the Internet” should be allowed.

He said the Internet was “rapidly becoming an essential tool for learning and communication,” and that libraries played “a vital role in assuring that the Internet is universally available to all segments of the population on an equitable basis.”

Mr. Rust-Tierney also argued that parents should have the primary responsibility for setting rules for their children regarding Internet access, and that “older minors should have access to resources appropriate for their age group, even if such materials may be considered by some parents to be unsuitable for younger minors.”

His arguments were in response to a ruling in a pending case by U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema in Virginia who said the Loudoun County Internet policy violated the First Amendment.

“Regardless of any future proceedings related to that litigation, the ACLU of Virginia urges the board to carefully consider a new Internet use policy that allows for maximum Internet access while providing options to parents and other users who may be concerned about unwanted content.”

Mr. Rust-Tierney’s wife, Diann Rust-Tierney, is executive director of the D.C.-based National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.

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