College Professor Charged with Unthinkable Crime

Friday, Mar 9, 2012  |  Updated 6:41 PM PDT
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College Professor Charged with Unthinkable Crime

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An East Bay professor who faces charges in the state of Missouri of raping a 1-year-old girl appeared before a U.S. magistrate in San Francisco on new federal charges of child sexual abuse and pornography  production.

      Kenneth Kyle, 46, of San Francisco, an assistant professor of  public affairs at California State University, East Bay, was indicted by a federal grand jury in San Francisco on April 1.
     
He is charged with five counts, including crossing a state line  for purposes of aggravated sexual abuse of a child. If Kyle is convicted of that charge, it would carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 30 years and  maximum of life in prison.
     
U.S. Magistrate Bernard Zimmerman told Kyle during a hearing, "You are facing serious charges. If you are convicted of that crime, you would have to spend at least 30 years in prison."
     
The other charges in the federal indictment are producing,  transporting, distributing and possessing child pornography. They would each  carry sentences of five to 30 years in prison upon conviction.
     
Monday's hearing was scheduled as an arraignment, but after defense attorney David Bigeleisen said he would like more time to discuss the charges  with Kyle, Zimmerman postponed the arraignment and plea entry until  Wednesday. 
     
The alleged victim's mother, Tessa Van Vlerah, 20, of Ballwin,  Mo., was also charged in the federal indictment with one count of producing child pornography depicting her own child between August and October 2009.
     
Van Vlerah is currently in state custody in Missouri and is being held on $2 million cash bail.
     
Both Van Vlerah and Kyle were charged March 24 with four Missouri state counts of raping Van Vlerah's 1-year-old daughter, as well as sodomy,  promoting child pornography and committing or promoting incest.
     
Zimmerman asked Assistant U.S. Attorney Owen Martikan today  whether federal prosecutors expect to transfer Van Vlerah to San Francisco soon to face the federal charge.
     
Martikan answered, "That's my hope." Outside of court, Martikan  declined to comment.
     
Bigeleisen said after the hearing, "We're going to be studying the indictment," but said he could not comment further.
     
Kyle, who appeared at the hearing in red Alameda County jail  clothing, is in federal custody and voluntarily agreed last week to remain in custody for the time being. He said little at the hearing except to tell Zimmerman he had not yet read the indictment.
     
The April 1 indictment replaced a previous federal criminal  complaint in which Kyle was accused of a single count of international transportation of child pornography.
     
That charge stemmed from Kyle's arrest at San Francisco  International Airport on March 15 as he arrived on a flight from Germany. Federal investigators allege they found at least 529 child pornography photos and 33 videos on a laptop computer he was carrying.
     
Missouri prosecutors have said they initiated their state  investigation after federal prosecutors alerted them on March 23 that Kyle had met Van Vlerah on the Internet and might have traveled to Missouri.
     
The federal indictment does not identify the alleged victim. But  the child sexual abuse and pornography production charges against Kyle give the same date, August through October 2009, as the charge against Van Vlerah.
      
Zimmerman scheduled another hearing before U.S. District Judge  Jeffrey White, the trial judge assigned to the case, on April 29 for the setting of future dates.
     
California State University, East Bay, spokeswoman Monique Beeler said Friday the university is "actively pursuing disciplinary actions" against Kyle.

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