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Professor to Seek Dismissal of NJ Child Porn Case

Pratt Institute
Pratt Institute (YouTube)

An architecture professor arrested after firefighters battling a blaze at his Jersey shore home found a 1970s magazine depicting naked prepubescent girls plans to seek dismissal of the child endangerment charge though a pretrial intervention program, his lawyer said Friday.

Attorney Hal Haveson told The Associated Press that Gamal El-Zoghby acknowledges the magazine found by firefighters Tuesday was his. But the 76-year-old professor at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y., bought it decades ago and hasn’t looked at it since, the attorney said.

“It was stuff he had discarded from his mind, just not from his home,” Haveson said.

El-Zoghby is charged with child endangerment as a result of the discovery of the magazine in question.

It is but one of a collection of 60 or 70 adult magazines found by firefighters who responded to a blaze at El-Zoghby’s waterfront home just before noon Tuesday, Haveson said. State police said only one magazine contained images of naked prepubescent girls.

The vast majority of the magazines were Playboy and Hustler magazines from the 1970s, which the attorney said are much tamer than what is generally considered to be pornography today.

“And the fact that it was all from the 1970s reinforces my client’s contention that this is stuff he hadn’t seen in decades,” Haveson said. “If this were someone who was into this, you’d expect to find a lot more, newer stuff.”

The attorney wouldn’t directly address why El-Zoghby had originally obtained the magazine in question, other than to say, “He had a reasonable, non-prurient explanation for that. It was not because he enjoyed child pornography.” He declined to comment further.

The lawyer also said he’s not sure that what’s in the magazine meets the legal definition of child pornography. A lot depends on whether the images are intended to appeal to prurient or sexual interests, he said.

“My client doesn’t know because he hasn’t seen this in decades,” he said.

The architect had intended for years to throw away the magazine but never did, his attorney said.  El-Zoghby is due in Eagleswood municipal court on Wednesday for a brief hearing, at which the judge is expected to refer the case to state Superior Court, Haveson said.

Ultimately, El-Zoghby will apply for New Jersey’s pretrial intervention program, which lets certain first-time offenders charged with nonviolent crimes have their criminal record wiped clean if they complete the program and stay out of trouble.

Prosecutors would have to agree to let him enter the program in order to avoid a trial.

El-Zoghby’s request to enter the program is not expected to be made until the case reaches the Superior Court level.  The professor is on a leave of absence at Pratt while the school investigates. A spokeswoman said Friday his status had not changed.

“This is all stuff from the 1970s; that’s really important,” Haveson said. “What someone does in their younger years does not define the man. He is not a collector of child pornography. My client had not paid any attention to this in decades.”

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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