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Monday, August 15, 2022

The Professor Kirk Nesset Child Pornography Case

     Dr. Kirk Nesset taught contemporary literature at Allegheny College, a small liberal arts school located in Meadville, a western Pennsylvania town about 90 miles north of Pittsburgh. In 2007, the then 49-year-old professor won the Heinz Literature Prize awarded by the University of Pennsylvania for his short story collection, Paradise Road. In addition to literary prestige the award came with a $15,000 cash prize.

     In August 2014, in Arizona where Professor Nesset had a second home in Prescott, a sex offense investigator working undercover traced two child pornographic movies to Nesset's computer billing address in Meadville. The films depicted two 8-year-old girls having sex with men. A month after this discovery, a detective with the Pennsylvania State Police found another pornographic film Nesset had purchased online. This movie featured a naked girl who was about six.

     In September 2014, FBI agents and officers with the Pennsylvania State Police, pursuant to a search warrant, took Professor Nesset's hard-drive from his home in Meadville. Over the next several days forensic computer experts found, on his computer, 540,000 images of children. While not all of the images were pornographic, at least 36,000 of them featured erotica or photographs depicting female child sexual molestation. One of the professor's computer files contained more than 1,000 images and movies depicting babies. In one film, a man had sex with an infant during a diaper change.

     Professor Nesset's computer revealed that he had been collecting child pornography since November 2005. 

     A federal prosecutor in Erie, Pennsylvania, on October 1, 2014, charged Kirk Nesset with possessing, receiving, and distributing child pornography. FBI agents and officers with the state police booked him into the Crawford County Jail on the federal charges.

     At Nesset's arraignment, the federal magistrate released him on a $10,000 unsecured bond. As a condition of his release, the suspect was required to wear an electronic monitoring device. Shortly after posting his bail, the 57-year-old resigned from Allegheny College. Classes at the school were cancelled for a day during which time students could seek counseling.

     When questioned by FBI agents, Kirk Nesset said his massive child pornography collection allowed him to "release steam." He also explained that looking at child pornography gave him "solace." He said his sexual viewing preference involved girls 10 to 13-years-old.

     Professor Joe Tompkins, Assistant Professor of Communication Arts at Allegheny College, in an October 4, 2014 opinion piece in The Campus, the school newspaper, wrote the following regarding what he considered the school's over-reaction to the Nesset case: "We should ask ourselves, are there "sexual predators" simply outside the realm of civilized behavior, or are they actually over-conforming to the cultural norms--norms that result in all too frequent incidents of not only child porn, but related instances of pornographic media, male violence and sexual assault against women?  Indeed, we're fooling ourselves to think these are completely unrelated matters…." 

     An Allegheny student, in response to Professor Tompkins' article, wrote: "I completely agree that pornography is a more overt extension of the way women are implicitly abused by our androcentric culture, and I agree that culture is largely to blame. I agree that largely, Kirk Nesset is being dehumanized as a fluke in our community, instead of a product of the culture…."

     This academic drivel from an ivory tower egghead and a liberal arts student; that it's society's fault that a 57-year-old man gained "solace" from watching men have sex with infants, reflects what American higher education had devolved to.

     Enjoying child pornography is criminally deviant behavior, and purchasing it is not a victimless crime. Children were being horribly abused because of people with Mr. Kirk Nesset's sexual appetite.

     On April 6, 2015, at the U.S. District Courthouse in Erie, Pennsylvania, the former college professor pleaded guilty to one count each of possessing, receiving and distributing child pornography. At his sentencing hearing scheduled for August 10, 2015, Nesset faced five to forty years in prison. Because he cooperated with the authorities and pleaded guilty, his attorney hoped the judge would hand down a light sentence.

     In July 2015, federal judge David Cercone postponed Nesset's sentencing to October 5, 2015 in order that his supporters could attend the hearing. (Only in academia would a person like Kirk Nesset have supporters.) Following a second sentencing postponement, the judge, on February 8, 2016, sent the former professor to prison for six years and four months.

     In December 2016, eight of the children depicted in Nesset's internet porn collection filed suit against the former professor in federal court. The plaintiffs, identified by pseudonyms, sought $150,000 apiece plus compensatory and punitive damages.

     In October 2018, the former creative writing teacher settled the lawsuits against him. The terms of the settlements were not disclosed. Kirk Nesset served his time at the Federal Correctional Institution at Lompoc, California located near Santa Barbara.


  1. What a shame. And yes the student's comments are drivel. Sadly, I believe this type of behavior is more widespread than people believe and by many respected members of society. It is also flaunted by the media. There's currently a commercial for baby diapers by a company I will not name using Meghan Trainor's song "All About That Bass" to promote them. I find this appalling and highly inappropriate as the song is about behinds. Maybe they are ignorant but I don't see how you can be that stupid. I personally complained. I think it relates to this article because there are people in high places promoting and engaging in this sort of behavior. It is not just the "weirdo" down the street. Society needs to wake up to this growing but certainly not new threat.

    1. Agreed. When I see or hear something like the commercial you described, I send an email. I suspect that many companies rely on less than savvy individuals to create ads, sadly. I spoke up about Overstock.com who used to market themselves around alluding to orgasms. I found their ad offensive and inappropriate for mainstream television.

    2. I fully agree. Theres a clothing line in Sear , geared towards 6-10 year old females named TEASE.....Why name a CHILDS CLOTHING LINE SUCH A HIGHLY INNAPROPIATE NAME unless you are a pedo too!! disgusting. I wish all mothers would unite and boycott that clothing line.

  2. Way to cherry-pick and obstinately decontexualize one quote from a whole. That is not at all the thesis of Thompkins' egg-shaped editorial. Lower your hackles and join the discourse; don't invent it.

  3. An educator like Dr. Kirk Nesset doesn't deserve anything. His activity as a professor in Allegheny College does not suits him. He is a crazy man and he deserve to be in jail. His activity must stop.


  4. January Thirder: Um, hackles should be raised after obtaining this info- not lowered. Jim can invent a discouse anytime he wants, just as you did above. I'm doing it right now! You just keep on with your mid-twenties and please- do not procreate. You are heartless.

  5. Professor Joe Thompkins never said what Kirk Nesset did was justifiable; or that he supported Nesset in any way. Thompkins was asking the question whether Nesset's deviance was a matter of degree or kind.

  6. A distinction relevant to few outside of academia.

  7. Right. Because no good can come from asking questions. Without curiosity humans would still be living in caves and throwing rocks at animals for dinner.

    1. Child pornography isn't "curiosity" Mary. It's disgusting, vile and criminal behavior. Only a sick mind would see any gray area here.

    2. Can you read? Obviously the use of "curiosity" wasn't referring to Nesset or the criminal behavior he engaged in.
      Child pornography is vile, as is the academia bashing in this article and the author's sad attempt to connect the two.

  8. Tell that to the exploited children in the pornographic videos, Mary H. I'm sure it will make them feel ever so much better.