Judge: Mt. Pleasant police chief’s wife can have laptop – The Journal News | LoHud.com

A federal judge in White Plains is allowing the wife of Mount Pleasant Police Chief Brian Fanelli to have a computer in their Mahopac home despite his arrest earlier this year on a child-pornography charge.

Federal agents arrested Brian Fanelli, 54, at his Archer Road home in January and seized computers they alleged contained more than 120 files of children as young as 7 engaged in sexual acts.

A lawyer for Fanelli, who is free on $50,000 bond but confined to his home, wrote to U.S. Magistrate Lisa Margaret Smith earlier this month, asking that Fanelli’s wife, Sonja, be allowed to buy a laptop computer to use at home for “bill payments and work-related emails.” Her computer was among those authorities seized from the home. It contained nothing illegal.

In his March 10 request, Goshen attorney Michael K. Burke writes that Mrs. Fanelli “understands that the laptop must be password protected and kept in a locked and secured area when not in use.” Burke said Fanelli also understands he cannot use the computer and that his wife cannot share her password.

Judge Smith approved the request after an assistant U.S. attorney and a pre-trial services officer had no objections. A message was left Thursday with Burke.

Fanelli’s next court date is April 16. He is charged with possessing child pornography and could face up to 10 years in prison.

Fanelli, the father of two grown children, allegedly downloaded and viewed illegal images and videos between October and January. He was promoted to chief in November, the culmination of his 31-year Mount Pleasant career. He was arrested Jan. 23.

He is suspended with pay from his $135,518-a-year job.

He told federal investigators he first viewed the images for research for school classes he taught on the dangers of sexual abuse then it became a habit. Fanelli lectured more than 1,000 children on computer safety and staying safe from sexual abuse at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in Shrub Oak, where he was also a volunteer catechism teacher. The church dismissed his from that position the day after his arrest.

The night of his arrest, Carmel police took him to Putnam Hospital Center after his wife reported he was despondent and suicidal at home. Fanelli is being monitored electronically and cannot leave home except for medical appointments, visits to his lawyer and church services. He also is barred from using computers and cellphones.

Paul Oliva is serving as Mount Pleasant’s acting chief.

Twitter: @CorcoranTerence

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