Conflicting Views of Alleged 'Double Life'
Friday, March 9, 2007
Prosecutors say Charles Rust-Tierney, a former president of the Virginia ACLU, was leading a "double life,'' coaching Little League baseball by day and using a computer in his 10-year-old son's bedroom to view child pornography at night.
Yet more than two dozen people -- including numerous fellow lawyers and his former wife -- packed a courtroom in U.S. District Court in Alexandria last week to testify that Rust-Tierney should be released from jail. And yesterday, his attorneys filed letters of support with the court from more than 30 people, including parents of children Rust-Tierney has coached.
"Chuck is the kindest, most gentle human being you could imagine,'' one supporter, Alexandria lawyer Phil Hirschkop, said in an interview. "I have no problem with him being with my children or grandchildren, whatever he's charged with.''
U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa C. Buchanan was not swayed, saying the images found on Rust-Tierney's computer were "the most perverted and nauseating and sickening type of child pornography" she has seen in 10 years on the bench. Defense attorneys Peter D. Greenspun and Jonathan Shapiro appealed her detention order and will try again today to win their client's release on bond.
Emotions are running high over the case of the youth sports coach and former president of Arlington Little League. Rust-Tierney, 51, who is a public defender in the District, is charged with receipt and possession of child pornography. Prosecutors say he downloaded images that included the sexual torture of children, set to a song by the band Nine Inch Nails.
The case has attracted national attention, with some critics and bloggers accusing the media of downplaying the story because of Rust-Tierney's ACLU connection. He was president of the board of directors of the ACLU's Virginia affiliate from 1993 to 2005. A source close to the ACLU, who declined to be identified because of the case's sensitivity, said Rust-Tierney helped set policy and decide which lawsuits to bring but was not involved in running the organization. He resigned from the ACLU's board the day he was arrested.
Nine years ago, Rust-Tierney addressed the Loudoun County library board in support of an ACLU lawsuit challenging the use of filters on computers at the public library to prevent adults from viewing sexually explicit material on the Internet. A federal judge overturned the policy, ruling that it violated constitutional rights of free speech.
"Recognizing that individuals will continue to behave responsibly and appropriately while in the library, the default should be maximum, unrestricted access to the valuable resources of the Internet," Rust-Tierney said in his brief remarks.
Since his arrest, Arlington police have been contacting parents with children coached by Rust-Tierney in the past year to look for any "inappropriate contact,'' said John Lisle, a police spokesman. No improprieties have been found, he said.
Ellen Witherow, a spokeswoman for Arlington Little League, said that the organization is "highly concerned" about Rust-Tierney's arrest and that he had passed a background check. She said Rust-Tierney ended his involvement with the league last year.
Law enforcement officials said Rust-Tierney had coached baseball, soccer and football since about 2003, usually his son's teams.
After graduating from George Washington University Law School, Rust-Tierney worked at an Alexandria civil rights law firm before joining the D.C. Public Defender Service in 1990. Since then, he has worked exclusively with mentally ill clients.
Peter Krauthamer, the office's deputy director, said that he "believes in the presumption of innocence" and that Rust-Tierney will be allowed to resume work if he is released but will be downgraded to paralegal status. If he remains in jail, he will be suspended without pay.
The supporters who attended the recent bond hearing included Rust-Tierney's next-door neighbor. "To us, he was just our good neighbor Chuck," Mike Brandt, whose wife went to court, said in an interview.
Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward McAndrew told the judge that Rust-Tierney "has been leading a double life. He's deceived a lot of people, including the people who are closest to him in his life.''
Rust-Tierney's former wife, Diann, testified that she was surprised by the allegations and that he is an "excellent parent" to the couple's 10- and 18-year-old sons. Asked by prosecutors whether she has reservations about trusting him with the children, she said, "Absolutely not."