A senior technology specialist at Middlebury College faces federal charges of possessing child pornography after authorities say a researcher illegally hacked into his computer and found the images.
Bristol resident Scott Remick, 46, who also owns the Vermont Geek computer repair business, was released on conditions following a detention hearing in federal court in Burlington on Friday.
The images found on Remick’s computer depict children as young as 7 years old engaging in sexual acts, including children restrained in handcuffs and bondage, according to an affidavit by Homeland Security Investigation Special Agent Michael McCullagh.
The researcher also found chat files of communication between Remick and “Jeanie,” who the researcher believed may be a teenager, exchanging images of child pornography, according to the affidavit.
The researcher, whose identity was not disclosed by authorities, works as a private software developer and security analyst researching a specific software security flaw. The researcher’s bot — an automatic software program that performs repetitive tasks — illegally hacked into Remick’s computer and found such a flaw before it discovered images of child pornography, the chat files and an image of Remick’s Vermont driver’s license, which allowed the researcher to identify Remick, according to the affidavit.
The researcher then notified the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children tip line and the Vermont State Police on June 16. In doing so, the researcher admitted to illegally accessing Remick’s computer with no assurance that they would not be charged for the crime.
“I am not sure how to handle this, and I am attempting to do the moral thing here,” the researcher wrote in an email to the state police. “What I saw shook me to my core, and I honestly could have never imagined being here in this position.”
The researcher was later granted immunity, according to the affidavit.
After searching Remick’s Bristol house and remotely accessing his electronic devices, the Homeland Security Investigation agent arrested Remick on charges of possession of child pornography. If convicted, Remick would serve up to 10 years in prison and would be required to register as a sex offender.
Federal Defense Attorney Barclay T. Johnson said he had serious concerns that Remick’s Fourth Amendment rights to due process were violated given that he was charged after the researcher illegally accessed his files.
Johnson declined to comment to VTDigger on the case.
The government is confident that it will secure a conviction based on the strength of the evidence and the volume and extent of Remick’s collection, Assistant U.S. Attorney Barbara A. Masterson said during Remick’s detention hearing on Friday.
Masterson filed a motion to detain Remick through criminal proceedings on Wednesday, saying that Remick presented a danger to the community and a flight risk that no probation conditions could mediate.
There is no evidence that Remick produced any images himself or had direct contact with any producers, but Masterson argued that Remick still committed violence against children by consuming such images. Child pornography, she said, is produced for people like Remick, and without such an audience might not be produced at all.
“By having that collection of child pornography, of course, Remick victimized each child depicted in those images,” Masterson wrote in the motion to detain.
Masterson also expressed doubt that probation officers would be able to monitor Remick and ensure he does not engage in any more criminal activity given Remick’s advanced technological skillset.
Remick has more than 30 years of experience working with computers and technology and described himself as having an “unmatched skill set” on his Bristol computer repair business website.
He was able to use a virtual private network that made it appear as if his computer was in Germany, not his Bristol home, as well as an anonymous TOR browser to disguise his identity and location, according to Masterson and the affidavit written by McCullagh. He also placed advanced encryptions on his files to conceal his alleged child pornography collection, they said.
Vermont District Judge Kevin J. Doyle denied Masterson’s motion to detain Remick and released him on probation until his preliminary hearing, scheduled for July 26. The judge said Remick, a lifelong Vermont resident, has deep ties to the community and doesn’t present a flight risk.
Remick has no criminal record, serious mental health concerns or history of addiction, the judge noted.
While on probation, Remick will not be allowed to associate with or come into contact, direct or indirect, with any minor, nor may he go to places where children are known to congregate, including schools, playgrounds and day care centers.
If Remick violates his probation, he could be sentenced for up to 10 additional years in prison beyond the up to 10-year sentence he already faces.
Middlebury College declined to comment on the employment status of Remick when the Valley Herald inquired on Thursday.
Julia Ferrante, the college’s associate vice president for public affairs, told the Herald that Middlebury “complies with and cooperates in all matters involving lawful requests from authorities. In the rare event of an arrest, we ordinarily place the employee on leave and take other appropriate steps while we gather more information.”
In the hearing, Masterson said it was unlikely that Remick would retain his job.
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