Former Seton Hill prof gets 15 years for having child porn

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A former Seton Hill University assistant professor who specialized in the sex education of autistic children will spend the next 15 years in federal prison for possession of child pornography and using hidden cameras in the bathrooms of his house to film four young brothers.

Balazs Tarnai, 36, of Unity, who had been indicted in 2011 and again in 2012, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge David Cercone and was immediately sentenced. The judge also ordered that he be placed on probation for the rest of his life when he gets out.

Mr. Tarnai, a sex researcher and Sunday school teacher originally from Hungary, was the target of a sting operation arranged by U.S. postal inspectors in 2006, when they shut down a California company that distributed child porn nationwide. Inspectors seized the customer list of the company and essentially took over the operation, sending out ads to those who had ordered previously.

Mr. Tarnai had ordered 14 kiddie porn movies in 2005, when he lived in State College while earning his doctorate at Penn State. He moved to the Greensburg area to take a job at Seton Hill in July 2008.

In 2011, postal inspectors posing as representatives of the shut-down California company sent him an ad for porn. He responded and took delivery on March 30, 2011, at his house on Saw Mill Road. State troopers and Greensburg police then conducted a search of his house, seizing DVDs, CDs and his laptop.

The laptop contained eight videos of four boys, ages 5, 10, 12 and 13, urinating and showering in two bathrooms at Mr. Tarnia's house, and inspectors found hidden cameras mounted in the bathrooms.

All of the boys are members of the same family that had befriended Mr. Tarnai when he moved to Westmoreland County.

Federal prosecutors said the boys often spent time at the Tarnai house, and that he was close with their parents. In addition to his position at Seton Hill, Mr. Tarnai was active in Bible study groups in the area and taught Sunday school.

Mr. Tarnai's lawyer, Alexander Lindsay, had argued that the porn videos were actually part of Mr. Tarnai's sex research on children, but prosecutors said his position as a special education sex researcher was a ruse to mask his interest in child pornography.

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Torsten Ove: tove@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1510. First Published January 23, 2013 12:30 AM


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