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Dubuque Elementary School Principal Sentenced to 30 Years in Prison for Producing Child Pornography

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA—The former principal of Sageville Elementary School in Dubuque, Iowa, who produced child pornography by secretly videotaping students in the boys’ bathroom at the school, was sentenced Monday to 30 years in federal prison.

Robert Burke, 43, from Dubuque, Iowa, received the prison term after an Aug. 2, 2011, guilty plea to one count of producing child pornography.

In a plea agreement, Burke admitted that, between January 2011 and June 3, 2011, while he was principal at Sageville Elementary School, he used hidden cameras in the school bathroom to secretly capture videos depicting the genitals of male students at the school. Burke admitted he saved these videos on hard drives at his house in Dubuque.

According to a previously filed criminal complaint, law enforcement officers were alerted to Burke after an FBI agent in Washington, D.C., downloaded eight images of child pornography from a computer that was later traced to Burke’s residence. On June 3, 2011, federal, state and local law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at the residence. During an interview, Burke said he had placed a hidden video camera in a boys’ bathroom at this school and recorded students who were using the bathroom.

According to information disclosed in court, Burke has claimed he has not touched any children in a sexual manner, and the government has gathered no evidence to contradict Burke’s claim.

Also according to information disclosed in court, investigators recovered evidence of an online chat where Burke told another person that he had captured depictions of “some boys peeing at urinals” and offered to make the depictions available for sharing. A forensic examination of Burke’s computer equipment revealed no evidence that Burke shared the videos he produced at the school.

Burke was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by U.S. District Court Chief Judge Linda R. Reade to 360 months’ in prison and fined $25,000. A special assessment of $100 was imposed. He must also serve a 20-year term of supervised release after the prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.

“As an elementary school principal, Burke was in a position of trust and authority over his students,” said U.S. Attorney Rose. “He took advantage of that trust, and he used his position of authority to exploit the children he was supposed to protect. Although Burke victimized many young children and caused tremendous concern to the entire community, the harm in this case might have been even worse had law enforcement not intervened when it did. The federal, state and local law enforcement officers whose excellent work put a stop to Burke’s criminal behavior should be commended, as should the school administrators, educators and parents whose assistance in this case was invaluable.”

Burke is being held in the U.S. Marshal’s custody until he can be transported to a federal prison.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Tremmel and was investigated by the FBI, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, the Iowa Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the Dubuque County Sheriff’s Office and the Dubuque Police Department.

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