Plea postponed: Judge wants report, photos in Korte child porn possession case

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Walter Korte leaves court August 8 after a judge holds off accepting a plea agreement.
Staff photo Walter Korte leaves court August 8 after a judge holds off accepting a plea agreement. Staff photo

 

One year after the arrest of former UVA film studies professor Walter Korte for the possession of child pornography sent the local cinephile community reeling, he appeared in court August 8 ready to enter a plea—and the judge asked for more information before okaying the agreement.

During his 46-year-career, Korte, 73, advised the fledgling Virginia Film Festival for many years, received a Fulbright Fellowship at the University of Milan, and was an expert on the work of Luchino Visconti and the Italian cinema.

The case began last summer when UVA police discovered a cache of porn in a dumpster on Grounds behind Bryan Hall on subsequent days. “The vast majority of the pictures depicted adult, transgender subjects, but a number of images included both clothed and unclothed young males,” said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Amanda Galloway.

Officers also found magazines and junk mail with Korte’s address.

Police set up surveillance on the dumpster, and on August 1, 2016, spied Korte at 6:43am dumping bags filled with more images. Yet another dump August 2 included poster boards of ‘70s teen heartthrob Leif Garrett, Galloway told Judge Cheryl Higgins in Albemarle Circuit Court.

Korte was arrested August 2, charged with two counts of child porn possession and held in jail for over a month. In February, Higgins ruled that the search warrant did not support probable cause because most of the images were legal adult porn or teens not engaged in sex acts, but she allowed the admission of the thousands of images as evidence anyway.

“The vast majority of the images contained legal, adult pornography,” said Galloway.

Questionable images were sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to be run against their child pornography database, which found one known child porn image, and to the state attorney general’s office, “which identified 695 images as legal ‘child erotica,’ not meeting the definition of child pornography under Virginia law,” Galloway told the judge.

The AG’s office also found 16 potential child porn images of pubescent males, but none matched the national database, their ages could not be determined and the images came from adult porn sites, said the prosecutor.

During the yearlong investigation, no hands-on victims were found, and a psychosexual evaluation determined Korte was not a threat, said Galloway. Because he had no criminal history and because of his age, the commonwealth agreed to a plea in which he could serve a maximum of 12 months and would become a registered sex offender, she said.

Galloway also pointed out that had Korte been convicted of possessing one image from the national database, sentencing guidelines would recommend probation, no incarceration and no sex offender registration. “The agreement allows for finality,” she said.

Higgins, however, was not ready to close the case. “I am concerned about the court being tied” to the agreement, she said. She also said she had “great reservations” about the photos, and asked to see the two alleged child porn images, which are under seal, and to have a pre-sentence report.

Korte will be back in court November 14 to learn her decision.

 

 

 

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