Matthew Kuppe, the former Jewish Community Center Day Camp counselor arrested last year for taking nude photos of young campers and posting them on a foreign website known to be frequented by pedophiles, pleaded guilty to distribution of child pornography on Aug. 4 in the federal courtroom of U.S. Eastern District Judge Avern Cohn.
The other five original felony charges against Kuppe, including the more serious charge of production of child pornography, will be dropped as part of the plea agreement reached last month between Kuppe and federal prosecutors.
Dressed in a dark suit and tie, Kuppe was accompanied by his parents, Richard and Linda Kuppe of West Bloomfield, and his attorney, Walter Piszczatowski. When asked by Cohn whether he distributed child pornography, Kuppe answered, “Yes, your honor;” however, the judge did not require him to describe his actions regarding the crime he claimed to have committed, as is often the case when defendants plead guilty to a felony charge.
According to the plea agreement, Kuppe acknowledged posting photos of three boys, ages 5 and 6 at the time. In the photos, taken in the JCC locker room, one of the boys was completely nude, one was nude from the waist down and one was shown urinating in the bathroom.
While the distribution of child pornography charge carries a penalty of five to 20 years, the plea agreement stipulates a prison sentence of 10 years followed by at least five years of supervision after release, a special assessment of $5,000 and possible restitution for the victims. Kuppe will also have to register as a sex offender according to state and federal guidelines.
According to the plea agreement, if Judge Cohn hands down a sentence of less or more than 10 years, either the prosecutor or the defendant can nullify the agreement.
Cohn said he would take Kuppe’s plea under advisement and ordered a pre-sentencing investigation along with a psychiatric evaluation. A sentencing date has not been scheduled.
Kuppe was arrested on Aug. 12, 2015, and charged with six felony counts of production, distribution, receipt and possession of child pornography after an investigation by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security revealed he had allegedly taken and posted nude photographs of three JCC campers on a foreign website under the username “JCCLOCKERROOM.” One of the campers had been identified by name on the site.
Kuppe has been living with his parents since last fall, when Cohn released him on bond despite protestations from Assistant U.S. Attorney Sara Woodward that he posed a danger to the surrounding community. Kuppe’s release included several conditions, such as an electronic tether, 24-hour monitoring by a parent or other adult and no internet access via computer, cell phone or other device.
In the weeks following Kuppe’s arrest, three members of the JCC day camp administrative staff, including the camp director, were fired for not taking action the previous summer when another counselor made complaints about Kuppe’s allegedly inappropriate behavior with some of the male campers.
A subsequent investigation by the Oakland County Prosecutor’s office, which included interviews with the three boys as well as other campers who had spent the summer in proximity to Kuppe, did not reveal evidence that any of the boys had been sexually molested.
By Ronelle Grier | Contributing Writer