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Attorney William Seikaly discusses sentence in Jewish camp counselor child porn case Charlie Ramirez, The Detroit News

Detroit — A West Bloomfield Township summer camp counselor who filmed prepubescent boys in a locker room at the Jewish Community Center and posted photos on a Russian website two years ago was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison Tuesday — but didn’t deserve it, the judge said.

U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn criticized a plea deal reached between federal prosecutors that left no room for a lesser sentence for Matthew Kuppe. Cohn faulted prosecutors for treating Kuppe as a child molester even though there was no evidence the counselor sexually assaulted any of the three male victims.

“In the 37 years that I have been a judge, this case does not represent one of the government’s finest hours,” Cohn said.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not respond to the judge’s comments Tuesday.

The sentence came eight months after Kuppe, 22, pleaded guilty to distributing child pornography in a case that prosecutors called every parents’ worst nightmare involving children abused during a summer rite of passage.

The plea deal, which includes seven years of supervised release, spared Kuppe from trial and the possibility of being convicted of producing child pornography, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years in federal prison.

Kuppe, wearing a dark suit, apologized and said he has undergone therapy during the 17 months he has been free on bond.

The footage he shot of three children ages 5 and 6 followed years of “confusing and unwanted thoughts,” Kuppe said

“I was struggling with myself,” Kuppe said. “One thing I know for sure is that I am a different person than 17 months ago. Nothing like this will ever happen again.”

Parents of the three victims also spoke Tuesday and described a loss of innocence and fear about the impact Kuppe’s criminal acts will have on their children in the future.

They also faulted the Jewish Community Center for ignoring concerns raised about Kuppe in summer 2014 and failing to protect children.

One mother said her son was photographed naked in the locker room while a second son appeared in footage with his clothes on.

“They lost much of their innocence because of you,” the mother told Kuppe.

A second mother said Kuppe posted footage of her 5-year-old son, identified him by name and treated pictures of his body and private parts as currency online to receive explicit footage from others on the Russian website.

“It’s been said that time heals all wounds; unfortunately, we can no longer believe in that truth,” the mother said. “If only the JCC acted against the perpetrator instead of shuffling him around. We have felt the inextricable loss of our son’s innocence...and basic trust. We trusted the JCC ... and he was placed in front of this predator.”

Michael Layne, a spokesman for the Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit, said staff members are committed to the “safety and welfare of the families we serve.”

“We are grateful that this painful matter has reached a conclusion through the criminal system,” Layne said in a statement. “We are hopeful that the healing process can continue uninterrupted.”

William Seikaly, a lawyer representing the three victims’ families, said his clients were bothered by the judge’s comments.

“They had some reaction,” Seikaly said outside court, “but not any that I’d allow to be quoted.”

The families accepted the plea deal and 10-year sentence

Kuppe, who is free on bond, won’t have to report to federal prison for several weeks. On Tuesday, the judge gave the former counselor more freedom, removing an electronic monitoring device and allowing Kuppe to travel outside his home.

The relaxed bond conditions also angered the victims’ parents, Seikaly said.

“The fact that he’s free to travel outside of home is something these parents clearly worry about.”

When the judge announced the new bond conditions, the mother of one victim shook her head in disgust.

Ahead of the sentencing, Kuppe underwent a polygraph examination April 1, during which he was asked whether he had sexual contact with a child.

Kuppe denied molesting any child and the polygraph examiner concluded Kuppe was telling the truth, according to a report filed in federal court.

According the plea agreement, on Aug. 5, 2015, Kuppe posted nine images on a Russian photo-sharing website that depicted a 5-year-old boy in the locker room of the JCC in West Bloomfield. In one photograph called MV-1, the child is completely naked.

On Aug. 6, according to the plea agreement, Kuppe posted six photographs of a 6-year-old boy changing out of his clothes and underwear and into his pajamas. He is nude from the waist down, according to the agreement.

Kuppe also posted two photos of a different 5-year-old boy. In one photo, the child is urinating into a toilet. Kuppe also sent the images over email to other internet users.

Kuppe came under investigation after he allegedly chatted online with an undercover officer on a public photo-sharing website. He is accused of discussing images of young, naked boys under the username “jcclockerroom@gmail.com,” according to court filings.

Kuppe and the undercover officer then spoke about sexual desires and fantasies involving the young boys, court records show.

As a result of the online conversation, investigators tracked the chat’s IP address to Kuppe’s home, according to court records.

Charles E. Ramirez and Jennifer Chambers contributed.

rsnell@detnews.com

(313) 222-2486

Twitter: @robertsnellnews

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