KEITH WHITCOMB JR.
BENNINGTON -- The local state’s attorney’s office has no plans to refile child pornography possession charges against a former elementary school teacher.
State’s Attorney Erica Marthage said that for the time being her office will not refile charges it brought in February against John Dockum, 34, a former Monument Elementary School teacher. Dockum pleaded not guilty to the state charges, but they were dropped over the summer. The U.S. Attorney’s office then filed its own complaint against Dockum and he was arrested.
Last week federal prosecutors filed a motion in U.S. District Court District of Vermont that they were dropping their case. Dockum was never formally charged by the federal government.
Marthage said her office will focus on efforts to update Vermont’s child pornography possession laws to reflect federal ones that address temporary Internet files.
Dockum’s attorney, David F. Silver, of Bennington, said in an interview that depositions were taken at the state level in which state police computer experts said the 17 alleged child pornography files found on a laptop Dockum was issued through the school were found in his temporary Internet files cache, but there was no way of proving he downloaded them or even knew they were there. Silver said the files got on the computer through a website Dockum was viewing, which was legal for him to do.
Dockum taught fifth grade at the school since 2009 and by all accounts was an admired teacher. He was fired by the school district in February.
Southwestern Vermont Superintendent Union Superintendent Catherine McClure said the district followed the state’s termination laws when it fired Dockum, adding that his conditions of release at the time forbade him contact with children.
Police were made aware of possible illegal images on Dockum’s computer in September 2011 when his wife brought files she’d seen on the home computer to the attention of police. That computer was never seized by police, and Dockum told authorities he threw away its hard drive after promising his wife he would never use the computer again.
The files that led to the charges were found on a laptop he was issued through the school, which has limited Web access on school servers but none when taken off school grounds.