Former East Bay Professor Sentenced to 37 Years in Infant Sex Abuse Case

The 47-year-old man pleaded guilty to a charge of crossing state lines to engage in aggravated sexual abuse of a child.

By Julia Cheever
|  Friday, Mar 9, 2012  |  Updated 7:24 PM PDT
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Professor Gets 37 Years in Infant Sex Case

Kyle, who holds a Ph.D. in justice studies, was formerly an assistant professor of public affairs and administration at California State University, East Bay.

A former East Bay college professor was sentenced in federal court in San Francisco to 37 years and six months in prison for sexually abusing an infant in Missouri in 2009.

Kenneth Kyle, 47, of San Francisco, was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White after he pleaded guilty to a charge of crossing state lines to engage in aggravated sexual abuse of a child.

The victim, who lived with her mother near St. Louis, was 5 months old when the abuse began in August 2009, according to court papers filed by prosecutors.

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said Kyle admitted during the guilty plea that the sexual abuse lasted for several months.

Kyle, who holds a Ph.D. in justice studies, was formerly an assistant professor of public affairs and administration at California State University, East Bay.

He resigned from the post on April 5, 2010, after he was arrested at San Francisco International Airport on March 15 of that year and found to have child pornography images on his laptop computer.

The FBI began investigating Kyle in December 2009 after undercover agents discovered that he was sharing child pornography photos and videos over a peer-to-peer Internet network.

Agents seized computers from his San Francisco apartment in early March 2010 and flagged him for arrest on his return from a trip to Germany.

Images and text messages found on the computers and Kyle's cellphone then led to the investigation and arrest of the infant victim's mother, Tessa Van Vlerah, 22, of Ballwin, Mo., later that month.

Van Vlerah has pleaded guilty to Missouri state charges of child molestation and is due to be sentenced on March 15. She also faces child pornography charges in federal courts in San Francisco and Missouri.

As part of Kyle's plea bargain, U.S. prosecutors will dismiss five additional counts in which he was charged with production, distribution and possession of child pornography.

Kyle previously pleaded guilty in May to the same charge of aggravated sexual abuse of a child in an earlier plea bargain in which prosecution and defense attorneys agreed to recommend a 30-year sentence. But White rejected that agreement.

The new agreement recommended a sentence of between 33 years and nine months and 37 years and six months, and White selected the maximum penalty within that range.

Haag said, "It is my hope that the sentence Mr. Kyle received sends a strong message about the abhorrent conduct in this case."

Defense attorney David Bigeleisen declined to comment on the case.

In a sentencing brief filed last year, Bigeleisen said that Kyle, who suffered from lifelong depression, had engaged in "reprehensible" conduct, but was remorseful and was a candidate for psychological treatment while in prison.

In an accompanying letter to the judge, Kyle wrote that his conduct was deplorable and said, "I am especially remorseful for the distress I caused the child and for the distress she has experienced in being separated from her family."

Homeland Security Department investigative agent Clark Settles, whose agency assisted in Kyle's airport arrest, said, "Nothing is more gratifying than seeing someone like this go to prison for a very, very long time where he will no longer have the opportunity to harm children in such a horrible fashion."

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