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Former New York police chief pleads guilty to possessing child porn; weeps during hearing

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WHITE PLAINS, New York — The former police chief of a New York City suburb, who once taught schoolkids how to be alert for sex abuse, wept Monday as he confessed that he had downloaded sexual images of children onto his home computer.

Brian Fanelli, who was chief in Mount Pleasant, New York, when he was arrested last year, pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography.

In exchange, federal prosecutors agreed not to seek a sentence longer than four years, three months. The maximum is 10 years.

"I'm truly sorry for the harm I've caused, especially to the victims in this case but also to my family, my police department and the government," Fanelli, 56, told Judge Kenneth Karas. He said he was under treatment for depression and anxiety.

Earlier, as the judge mentioned sex offender registration, Fanelli began to choke up, then wept. The judge ordered a break.

Fanelli's wife and daughter were among a small group of supporters in the gallery.

The complaint said Fanelli told investigators he first used the pornographic images as research for sex-abuse awareness classes he was teaching at a grade school and a middle school. But he added that he then began viewing the images "for personal interest," the complaint said.

The indictment alleged Fanelli had more than 120 images of child porn.

He had been in office about two months when he was charged. He resigned two months afterward.

Fanelli's arrest prompted a Homeland Security investigation that led to charges against more than 70 others, including a Boy Scout leader and a rabbi.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara issued a statement Monday saying Fanelli, "who swore to protect and serve, admitted to a crime that victimizes and exploits some of the most vulnerable in our community."

Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 12. Fanelli was allowed to remain under home confinement with electronic monitoring. His attorney, Michael Burke, told the judge that because Fanelli had been a police chief, he would have to be protected from other prisoners when he is sent to prison, but that solitary confinement would interfere with his psychiatric treatment.

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