CMU student arrested for child pornography

Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane announced last Monday the recent arrest of eight suspected child predators, including Carnegie Mellon graduate student Adham Mandour. Mandour, who is pursuing his master’s degree in biology at Carnegie Mellon, was arrested on charges of child pornography possession and distribution. The arrest took place on Carnegie Mellon’s Oakland campus with the help of the Carnegie Mellon Police Department and the Pittsburgh Police Department, according to the official attorney general’s office press release. Further details regarding the arrest on campus have not yet been disclosed.

Before making the official arrest on campus, police conducted a search in Mandour’s Shadyside apartment. There, a computer forensic examiner found at least 25 media files of child pornography and a peer-to-peer downloading application installed on the defendant’s laptop. Investigators had previously traced peer-to-peer file sharing of child pornography to an IP address in Mandour’s apartment. University Police then aided the agents in locating and arresting the defendant on campus. Mandour is from Egypt and attends Carnegie Mellon with a student visa.

Mandour’s felonies are of the third degree. He is charged with eight counts of possession of child pornography, two counts of distribution of child pornography, and one count of criminal use of a communication facility.

This arrest occurred along with the arrests of seven other suspected child predators throughout the state and comes as part of the most recent sweep by agents from the Child Predator Section of Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Office.

Carnegie Mellon University declined to comment on the case. The University’s Media Relations Office did include a link to a WXPI article about the case in a “News Clip” email sent on Oct. 24.

Ken Walters, executive director of media relations, gave the following statement regarding how the University manages cases concerning students facing criminal charges: “Consistent with our commitment to student privacy and our obligations under the law, the university will not disclose information related to allegations involving a specific student. In general, CMU uses the community standards process to review matters where a student has allegedly violated university policy or has already been convicted of a serious crime by a public court. For incidents that pose immediate concerns for the safety and welfare of the campus community, the dean of student affairs may take summary action or implement interim measures that limit a student’s ability to be present on campus, engage in coursework, and/or interact with specific members of the university community until a resolution is reached. In cases where the university determines reported criminal activity poses a serious or continuing threat to the university community, we issue crime alerts to the campus as described in our Annual Security Report issued by University Police.”

Student reaction to the university’s communication with the Carnegie Mellon community regarding the case proved mixed.

Victoria Merten, a graduate student in physics, commented “No, I hadn’t heard about it.... I don’t really know how I feel about that. I mean, obviously police still have jurisdiction over campus. They would come to your work and arrest you. So I guess it’s kind of the same idea as that. It doesn’t make me feel great.... I feel like maybe I should have heard about it. I don’t think the police did anything wrong.”

Jonathan Dunstan, a fifth-year senior and electrical and computer engineering major, commented: “I did not know. I would have liked [to know].... I mean, it’s difficult, because at the same time there’s really no concrete reason why people need to know about that, other than shaming him for doing something horrible, which I’m not necessarily opposed to. I can’t think of a reason why we have a responsibility to know, other than the fact that it was done on campus. Taking the location into mind, yeah, I think it would make sense for an email or something along those lines. And I guess the other issue is he hasn’t really been prosecuted yet. So are we going to throw away the assumption of innocence on his part?”

Bruno Vizcarra, a graduate student in statistics, did not know about the case, and wished he would have. “I think they should make ... not a huge deal about it, but maybe say that it’s under control and it’s been taken care of.... I mean, they report on petty crime all the time,” Vizcarra said. “This is pretty major.... Also to reassure people that they’re on top of things.”

First-year Dietrich College student Ann Widom was concerned with the potential outcome of relaying information about the case. “I think that’s a really hard line to talk about. Because on one hand it’s really important to have safety information so that students know how to be safe and if they can be safe and if they are safe,” she said. “But on the other hand, this is one incident. And perhaps since we don’t know about it, it’s not just one incident. And that would be the importance of having the knowledge out there. But if it is just one incident, then what you would create by publicizing it a lot is a huge amount of worry, and people being uncomfortable, and people feeling unsafe, when in reality this is one incident.”

Mandour awaits trial for his charges. Deputy Attorney General Anthony Marmo of the Attorney General Office’s Child Predator Section will be handling the case, which will take place in Allegheny County.