Dartmouth professor faces prison for child porn collection


CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A Dartmouth College professor whom one colleague described as a beloved presence on campus could spend years in prison after being caught with an extensive collection of child pornography — some of which he shared on the social media site Tumblr.

J. Martin Favor, on paid leave since his September arrest, pleaded guilty in March and resigned earlier this month. He will be sentenced Monday and could receive up to 10 years in prison, though a prosecutor recommended 6½ years; his attorney requested three years. He faces being a registered sex offender for life.

Favor’s lawyer, George Ostler, said it’s certain the Ivy League English professor’s two-decade career is over. But he says Favor recognizes he suffers from an addiction and has committed himself to mental health treatment.

“Through the years, Mr. Favor played an active and a robust role in the academic community and was widely respected, not only at Dartmouth, but throughout the country,” Ostler said in a court document.

Favor, 49, was arrested last year at his Plainfield home after authorities said he uploaded four suspected images of child porn through his account on Tumblr, a cross between a social networking site and a blog. Authorities say the images were uploaded to an account associated with his IP address and were traced back to him.

Tumblr has a process to detect whether a known file of child pornography is being stored on an account. It made a report to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which, in turn, provided a cyber tip line report to the New Hampshire Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

The case partly relied on technology called PhotoDNA refined by a Dartmouth computer science professor, Hany Farid. It identifies a signature in an image that can then be matched with one in a vast database of child pornography.

“On the one hand, this is exactly what this technology was built to do,” Farid said. “On the other hand, this is a colleague of mine and you know he is in for a world of hurt. I’m not particularly pleased that I’m part of that. It’s a complicated situation, of course.”

Favor began teaching at Dartmouth in 1993 and was granted tenure six years later. He was an associate professor of English and former chairman of the African and African-American Studies program. Among his books are “Authentic Blackness: The Folk in the New Negro Renaissance.” Ostler said he was a mentor to many students.

A college spokeswoman and the school’s alumni association declined to comment or respond. Melissa Zeiger, an associate professor of English, said in an email that since he came to Dartmouth, Favor has been “an extremely popular and successful teacher, although renowned for intellectual rigor as a grader.”

She added, “Students have often mentioned to me how much he has improved their critical thinking, how willing he was to work with them in class and in conference to help them become good writers: the review ‘hard but worth it’ I have heard on more than one occasion. He has done this with quiet, but impressive selflessness.”

After getting the national center’s report, investigators searched Favor’s home computer and flash drive. Prosecutors said they contained more than 500 videos and 300 still images depicting children, some as young as toddlers, being sexually abused.

In his sentencing recommendation, Assistant U.S. Attorney Nick Abramson said Favor, by his own admission, had been collecting child pornography for 15 years, “at least in part to satisfy the unnatural ‘urges’ upon which he swears he has not tangibly acted; urges from which he was able to abstain by avoiding regular interaction with young children.”

Abramson wrote that Favor’s “prolonged evasion of accountability for this criminal conduct was ultimately undone by his decision to distribute illicit images” through his Tumblr account.

Favor declined an interview through Ostler.

Ostler wrote that although it’s not disputed that Favor had a large number of images, “these were downloaded from the publicly accessible internet without use of any encryption or through any so-called dark websites. Mr. Favor did not organize, catalog or make all those images or videos available through any filing-sharing online community.” He said Favor viewed them privately.

Ostler said Favor sought treatment soon after his arrest.

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Associated Press writer Michael Casey in Concord and researcher Rhonda Shafner in New York contributed to this report.

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