Former NY police chief's child porn research became personal interest, prosecutors say

A former New York police chief pleaded not guilty Monday to federal child pornography charges.

Federal agents raided the Mahopac home of Brian Fanelli, then chief of Mount Pleasant police, on Jan. 23, seizing computers that authorities said held more than 120 files showing children as young as 7 years old engaging in sexual acts.

The 54-year-old Fanelli told investigators he began looking at child porn while conducting research for classes on sexual abuse that he taught and elementary and middle schools.

"But shortly thereafter, he began viewing child pornography for personal interest," prosecutors said.

Fanelli’s arrest came two months after he was named police chief in his hometown, where he had served 31 years as a police officer.

He was suspended after his arrest and retired April 10.

The father of two grown children was a volunteer catechism teacher for several years at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Shrub Oak and taught hundreds of students about the dangers of sexual abuse.

Fanelli was charged with three counts of knowingly receiving and distributing child pornography, and he remains free on $50,000 bond.

If convicted, he could face decades in prison.

Watch this video report posted online by WABC-TV: