Details emerge in case against Westport librarian charged with possessing child porn

WESTPORT — A town librarian charged with possessing child pornography made his first appearance in court and shortly thereafter, details of the investigation leading to the arrest were released.

Robert Kelly, 43, now former manager of collection curation at the Westport Public Library, was charged with second-degree possession of child pornography, promoting obscene performance, and obscenity on Jan. 26. On Feb. 9 he appeared in Norwalk Superior Court and his case was transferred to Stamford Superior Court.

Kelly’s arrest followed a months-long investigation By Westport police into his alleged use of child pornography.

In late August, the Connecticut State Police Computer Crimes Unit assigned Westport Police Sgt. Sereniti Dobson to investigate a cyber tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). The tip said Kelly shared a child pornographic image and accompanying lewd message with a man via Facebook on Aug. 11, according to court filings.

“The wheels of justice do turn slowly. If we just get a Facebook account, we have to do a subpoena to Facebook and they may just send us an IP address,” Dobson, then assigned to the department’s Youth Bureau said of the investigation. “We have to get court orders, which can take 30 days to come back. We need to do surveillance and our own investigation. We don’t want to knock down the door of the wrong house.”

In the affidavit, Dobson describes she traced the cyber tip’s IP address back to the Westport Public Library and surveyed Kelly’s internet use over the month of August and another IP address associated with Kelly’s email traced back to 16 Crooked Mile Road in Westport, where Kelly rented an apartment.

“Based on my experience with computer crimes, we know what to look for. We know some people keep libraries of their child porn. It’s like their prized possessions,” Dobson said, describing she believed there was probable cause that evidence of child pornography was located at Kelly’s address and thus, she was able to secure a search warrant for Kelly’s home from a Stamford judge on Jan. 11.

On Jan. 16, Dobson executed the search and, upon arriving at the residence, encountered a woman who identified herself as a tenant and said Kelly lived in another apartment on the property. After hearing of the search warrant, the woman walked Dobson and her colleagues to Kelly’s apartment.

Kelly wasn’t home, but Dobson and her team completed the search and seized a phone and laptop computer.

A half-hour later, Dubson drove back to Kelly’s apartment to question him upon learning he was home, according to the court filings. Kelly agreed to talk with officers, told Kelly about the recent search and their investigation into his use of child pornography.

“He appeared to be nervous and was shaking,” Dubson wrote in the court filing.

Kelly said he spent the weekend with his girlfriend, who he had been dating for about a year, and her two kids in Rhode Island, where he lived until receiving the position at the Westport library in January 2017.

“He started to break down and put his head down,” Dubson wrote of Kelly’s reaction to her further explanation of the investigation. Kelly confirmed he’s been attracted to child pornography for the past 10 to 15 years and sought psychological treatment a few years ago from alcoholics anonymous but must have relapsed.

Kelly said he’s never touched any children and never thought about touching a child but has sexual fantasies about children.

Dubson wrote Kelly appeared familiar with terminology related to the underground world of child pornography and, in response to the question of why he had such a depth of knowledge on the topic Dubson writes Kelly said, “Well that’s because I’m a librarian.”

Kelly said he’s attracted to the taboo of child pornography but does not store any images on external hard drives because he would feel guilty.

Dubson asked Kelly if he viewed child pornography at the library and he said, ‘yes,’ but said he never used library devices due to security measures.

“Kelly became sick to his stomach and felt he wanted to vomit,” and said he was sorry and knew he needed help before getting up to vomit in the kitchen sink, Dubson wrote.

“I asked him if he was OK and if he wanted to hurt himself and he stated, yes, he wanted to die and that his life is over, because he is a professional,” the affidavit states. At that time, Kelly voluntarily committed himself to Norwalk Hospital.

Back at headquarters, Dubson received a report from the Newport Rhode Island Police Department regarding a 2015 sex crime report involving Kelly in which a female reported Kelly sexually assaulted her and showed here 20 pictures of child pornography on his computer. The case was never investigated, accoridng to Dubson.

A forensic examination of Kelly’s phone seized Jan. 16 revealed 45 images of child pornography in the trash bin of his phone. On Jan. 26, police requested a warrant for Kelly’s arrested. Three days later, Kelly turned himself into police.

Upon learning of the investigation at the end of January, Westport Public Library Executive Director William Harner said he immediately restricted Kelly’s access to the library and its property and instructed him not to perform his duties. On Feb. 9, a representative of the library confirmed Kelly is no longer an employee of the library.

Stamford-based attorney Mark Sherman is representing Kelly and was present at his first court appearance on Feb. 9 in Norwalk when Kelly’s case was officially transferred to Stamford, due to the seriousness of the charges waged against Kelly, Sherman said.

“Remember these are just accusations at this point in time,” Sherman said.

Kelly will next appear in Stamford Court on Feb. 22.

svaughan@hearstmediact.com; @SophieCVaughan1