Samuel LaSala, a former Montclair State University Information Technology (IT) department member, is set to be sentenced in January of 2019 for child pornography.
According to the United States Attorney’s office, LaSala had a laptop that contained videos of child sexual abuse. He shared these videos with others over the internet, making the videos available to download using an online peer-to-peer file sharing network.
LaSala admitted that he had over 100 videos on his laptop depicting child sex acts, and he was in possession of those videos between May 2017 and January 2018.
Pleading guilty to the distribution of these videos guarantees LaSala a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison or a minimum five years as well as a fine of $250,000.
On May 23, Montclair State was informed by LaSala that he was being investigated by the United States Department of Homeland Security for distribution of child pornography.
“The university suspended Mr. LaSala, cooperated fully with the Department of Homeland Security investigation, and simultaneously commenced its own parallel forensic investigation of university equipment to which Mr. LaSala had access,” said Director of Media Relations, Communications and Marketing Erika Bleiberg.
No pornographic imagery was found on the campus computers, since LaSala used his own laptop to store and share the videos he collected.
“We feel it’s important to clarify that the images were found on Mr. LaSala’s personal computer, not on any equipment belonging to the university,” Bleiberg said.
According to Montclair State’s University Police Capt. Kieran Barrett, there was administrative action taken to ensure that the computers were clean, but the main investigation on LaSala was handled by the federal government.
“The investigation was handled by the US Department of Homeland Security who would have kept us abreast if any activity occurred here at Montclair State University,” Barrett said. “To date, there has been no indication that any of the alleged activity occurred here at Montclair State.”
Prior to the investigation, there were no complaints regarding LaSala’s behavior or actions.
“During the period of his employment at the university, no complaints had been raised in regard to Mr. LaSala,” Bleiberg said. “His responsibilities did not involve any interaction with minors.”
Senior IT major Christopher Chu, an employee at the IT department, knew of LaSala but never met him.
“I was just shocked that someone working at the same office I work at was involved in distributing child pornography,” Chu said.
On Aug. 23, LaSala informed Montclair State that he entered a plea agreement related to the criminal charges pending against him. The next day, he resigned from his position in the IT department.
As a part of the plea deal, LaSala will have to register as a sex offender. His MacBook Pro along with his 500 GB hard drive used to store and share the videos were also confiscated.
Joseph Rotella, LaSala’s defense attorney, did not have a definitive comment on the matter.
“Because this matter is still ongoing and my client has not yet been sentenced, I can not comment on the matter,” Rotella said.