WELCOME GUEST  |  LOG IN
meghan heckman, 2019 election
27east.com

Story - News

Sep 10, 2013 4:32 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Jay Sears Pleads Guilty To Possession Of Child Porn; Faces Up To 10 Years In Prison

Sep 10, 2013 4:32 PM

East End architect and philanthropist Jay Sears pleaded guilty to one count of possessing child pornography in U.S. District Court in Central Islip on Monday, eight months after investigators discovered hundreds of sexual images of identifiable minors in his old apartment in East Moriches and in Dumpsters across Suffolk County.

As part of a plea deal reached with prosecutors, Mr. Sears, now 74, admitted before Judge Denis R. Hurley that he photographed a female minor, cut out her face and pasted it on a pornographic image of an adult woman, so as to make it appear that she was engaging in sexual activity.

Mr. Sears, who was released after the proceedings and remains free on $250,000 bond, faces up to 10 years in prison when he is sentenced on January 17, 2014. As part of the judge’s orders, Mr. Sears will remain under house arrest at an East Quogue condominium until his sentencing.

“I am sincerely remorseful, and accept complete responsibility for having committed this crime,” Mr. Sears said while reading from a prepared statement during the court proceedings.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Allen Bode, who is leading the prosecution, said during Monday’s hearing that he has suggested a sentence of 24 to 30 months, in line with federal sentencing guidelines, as part of the plea agreement. He also said it is common for the probation department to ask for a psychosexual evaluation before sentencing, though Mr. Sears has the right to decline participation.

As part of the deal, officials with the U.S. District Attorney’s office have agreed to dismiss the five additional counts of child pornography possession that had been filed against Mr. Sears, and which he pleaded not guilty to in March. Still, officials explained that while Mr. Sears was not required to plead guilty to those additional counts, the court will consider his conduct, as well as all his victims, when he is sentenced early next year.

Prosecutors and Mr. Sears’s defense attorney, Richard Signorelli, have declined to share why they agreed to the plea deal.

In addition to his attorney, Mr. Sears, who was dressed in a navy blue suit with pinstripes and a yellow tie, was also accompanied by two family members for Monday’s court proceedings.

“At the time I committed the offense, I knew that what I was doing was wrong,” Mr. Sears said. “However, because the visual depiction did not include a photograph of an actual minor’s naked body, I was not then aware that the private possession of such an image constituted a criminal offense.”

Mr. Bode said that is no excuse for breaking the law, adding that Mr. Sears will need to register as a sex offender once he is released from prison. “It is a federal offense, and ignorance of the law is no excuse,” Mr. Bode said in court.

He also explained that, to date, none of the victims has filed claims of restitution against Mr. Sears, but noted that they are entitled to do so.

Mr. Bode also declined to explain the reason for the plea deal when reached outside the federal court following Monday’s proceedings.

Before accepting the guilty plea, Judge Hurley questioned Mr. Sears to ensure that he understood the consequences of his actions. The judge told him that he would be forfeiting his right to a trial, during which the burden of proof would have been placed on prosecutors, as well as his right to appeal the conviction and forthcoming sentence if it is less than 33 months.

Mr. Sears was indicted by a grand jury on February 20 on six felony counts of possession of child pornography—one count for each of the identifiable minors depicted in the images recovered by authorities. Officials from the U.S. Attorney’s office said numerous bags containing hundreds of child pornography images were found in the trash at numerous sites throughout Suffolk County in January, allegedly removed from Mr. Sears’s East Moriches apartment while he prepared to move.

Investigators have said that Mr. Sears, the founder of the Quogue-based nonprofit Mission of Kindness, photographed the girls in public settings, such as at the Quogue Beach Club and fundraisers on the East End. He then pasted photographs of his own head onto the images of the male bodies in the pornographic images, making it appear as if he was engaging in sexual acts with children, federal prosecutors have said.

The process of modifying photos in this manner, typically through electronic means, is known as “morphing” and prohibited by federal law. Mr. Sears’s actions, in which he cut and pasted photos of children onto pornographic materials, prompted some in the community to question at the time of his arrest whether what he did qualified as morphing.

Mr. Sears was arrested in late January and released from federal custody in February after posting $250,000 bond.

“I’m sorry,” Mr. Sears said after pleading guilty to the single count. “My life has been dedicated to helping others, not hurting them.”

You've read 1 of 7 free articles this month.

Already a subscriber? Sign in

HHS, I'm interest in your opinion on this after you so vehemently defended his actions
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 9, 13 11:23 AM
2 members liked this comment
This should prove interesting...
By Mr. Z (11668), North Sea on Sep 9, 13 2:40 PM
Of all the shocking news! Not really.
Bizarre dude.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Sep 9, 13 4:43 PM
to Nature:

My opinion remains unchanged. The actus reus for which Jay Sears was charged was harmless, involving as it did the manipulation of inanimate objects solitarily and secretly for no ones delectation but Mr. Sears himself. Moreover, it took place within the confines of his own home.

Harmless behavior should not be criminalized because it upsets a community's sensibilities. Moreover, this law will deter no one from committing the "crime" because putative criminals will ...more
By highhatsize (4178), East Quogue on Sep 9, 13 4:50 PM
4 members liked this comment
Hat, are you including in your analysis that the defendant (presumably) asked the children's parents for permission to take (some of) the photos, without disclosing his intentions?

Especially if he was in the middle of a sales pitch as an angel sent to help them?

It would be interesting to know if he was required to state all the details of the acts to which he was pleading guilty . . .
By PBR (4952), Southampton on Sep 9, 13 4:59 PM
2 members liked this comment
I'm not sure what is creepier. Imagining Mr. Sears doing god knows what with these images

or

HHS bending over backwards to try and legitimize these actions as victimless and harmless. I assume HHS has no children.
By C Law (350), Water Mill on Sep 9, 13 6:32 PM
2 members liked this comment
Boggles the mind, C. Don't know if Hat has daughters, but if he does I wonder if he be ok with Jay's actions if they included his daughter's images. He gained the trust of parents in crisis, betrayed the trust, created pornography using images of children, then presented himself as an angel. Uh, no sympathy here. Lock him up.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Sep 9, 13 6:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
From another article:

"Sears admitted that he created child pornography by taking photographs of children in public settings without their knowledge, such as at beach club parties and other events, and then placed the images of the children's heads onto images of adult bodies engaged in sexual activity."

Ignorance of the law is not an excuse. It doesn't matter if you agree with the law either - if the law is unjust or a violation of his rights, he shouldn't plead guilty and should ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 9, 13 7:42 PM
to Nature:

I make no excuse for or justification of Mr. Sear's perversion. My assertion is that his behavior is protected by the 1st and 4th amendments. It involved no other person, adult or minor, before or after the fact, and was practiced solitarily and in secret within Mr. Sear's own home. No one was harmed by his acts and they were made public against his will by an inquisitive garbageman.

Mr. Sears' behavior caused numerous adults in the community emotional distress. ...more
By highhatsize (4178), East Quogue on Sep 9, 13 11:00 PM
2 members liked this comment
So HHS - if there's no harm no foul, what is Mr. Sears "extremely remorseful" for?

If it's a violation of the 1st and 4th amendments, why would he plead guilty? Why is he not fighting the constitutionality of the law?

Do the children he photographed (without their consent) on private property not have a right to privacy? It's illegal, he should go to jail, because if he goes free what's to prevent him from committing the same crime?
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 10, 13 9:15 AM
3 members liked this comment
HHS, please see unanswered questions above and below. Thank you.
By PBR (4952), Southampton on Sep 10, 13 11:13 AM
Luckily nobody except you and NAMBLA members believe this. It's a very gray area of the law but child pornography receives no protection under the 1st or any other amendment of the constitution nor should it.
Sep 10, 13 12:48 PM appended by KevinLuss
If you expand on your premise, if someone shoots at you and misses i.e. attempted murder wouldn't be a crime...just something that causes emotional upset. nobody got hurt. doesn't hold water.
By KevinLuss (356), SH on Sep 10, 13 12:48 PM
1 member liked this comment
I would be furious and sickened if a picture of my child was used in this way. This is just creepy.
By Mrs.Sea (268), Sag Harbor on Sep 9, 13 5:58 PM
Yes Jay Sears broke the law. Thank God he hasn't physically harmed a child. I I think there is no reason to tell any child what Mr Sears did. The man is obviously very sick and should be put in a mental hospital not in a prison for 10 years. The behavior is not of a person of sound mind. I hope he gets the help he needs a nd people forgive him
By chief1 (2783), southampton on Sep 9, 13 7:45 PM
personal use or not the man is sick, took the pictures, refaced the pictures, etc. he deserves prision time. Imagine if it was your child's body with another face. the other inmates will take care of him as he will not ever imagine, age and all. you DO NOT do this th children!!!
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Sep 9, 13 7:59 PM
Some people in this world are just insane or crazy. the question is did he mentally hurt any child? Unless a parent told their child that their picture was used in this explicit way how would a child be harmed? I'm not saying the man shouldn't be punished but 10 years? God forbid it was my child I would make sure they never knew what happened and I would thank God he never touched them physically. The man needs help
By chief1 (2783), southampton on Sep 9, 13 8:13 PM
Ya think the ol' creeper would bone up on his photoshop skills. Guess Miss Crabtree didn't teach that to alfalfa, Darla and of course Spanky
By Hambone (513), New York on Sep 9, 13 11:13 PM
I will not condone, nor encourage Mr. Sears behavior.

That being said, the behavior in question is as old as "humanity".

Is he "guilty" by modern standards? Sure.

But, by primitive standards in the jungle, he would not be imprisoned, and most likely via natural selection, a dominant male would have ended his existence under the right circumstances.

Society reaps, that which it has sown...
Sep 10, 13 1:39 AM appended by Mr. Z
It is an historical fact that sharing the world, has never been humanity's defining attribute... ~ Professor Charles Xavier
By Mr. Z (11668), North Sea on Sep 10, 13 1:39 AM
1 member liked this comment
Hat and Z

You have not really addressed the questions raised yesterday about possible photos taken of known children with parental permission granted under false pretenses. Comments under previous articles cast this possibility in a light you do not seem to have considered in your opinions of clear historical precedent and the notion of "victimless."

We may not know all the details here, and the defendant may have copped a plea to avoid them seeing the light of day.
By PBR (4952), Southampton on Sep 10, 13 6:36 AM
PS Mr. Z, there were no cameras in Rome . . .
By PBR (4952), Southampton on Sep 10, 13 6:36 AM
Actually, I was simply referring to pederasty. As "humanity" has evolved, so has it's methodologies.
By Mr. Z (11668), North Sea on Sep 10, 13 7:09 AM
And therefore, Mr. Z, your quote [ " the behavior in question is as old as "humanity". ] is not accurate. That is the point: there is NO historical basis for ALL of the acts in question here, including the salient details which remain unknown.

In federal court, it is often required that a defendant pleading guilty state the facts ["Elocution" is the term IMO -- perhaps HHS can confirm this?] underlying the guilty plea. If done here, the transcript of this hearing might be interesting . ...more
By PBR (4952), Southampton on Sep 10, 13 8:25 AM
An eight year old Yemeni girl recently died on her wedding night. Things like this have been going on for millennia. Maybe the particulars are different, but perversion has existed for a very long time.
By Mr. Z (11668), North Sea on Sep 10, 13 12:26 PM
Then please be more precise with your exculpatory words, if you don't want them to be taken literally to apply specifically to cases like this.
By PBR (4952), Southampton on Sep 10, 13 1:57 PM
Legislatures make laws. In this case, child porn is also defined as taking children's faces and placing them on adult bodies to fashion pseudo-child porn, whether you agree with it or not. We agree to those laws by electing the legislators and living in this society. If you don't agree with the law, you can change it. While in your home you might have privacy, by our modern-day standards, we still generally feel that behavior is sick. We might say things like, "the guy clearly needs help." Saying ...more
By watermill_mike (35), Sag Harbor on Sep 10, 13 7:54 AM
If WHB took away the trailers where is he going to live when he gets out? Betcha he could build a kick arse mobil sex offender unit!
By Hambone (513), New York on Sep 10, 13 8:49 AM
The man manipulated parents in crisis to gain access to their children. He presented himself as a caring and concerned person looking to help. He then photographed children, manipulated the photos to create pornographic material.
Sure seems like predatory behavior to me combined with sickness. Predators have an uncanny knack for manipulation.
By double standard (1506), Remsenburg on Sep 10, 13 9:02 AM
4 members liked this comment
Nice summary in the first paragraph, indeed.
By PBR (4952), Southampton on Sep 10, 13 10:38 AM
The term sociopath comes to mind...
By Mr. Z (11668), North Sea on Sep 10, 13 12:30 PM
to Nature and PBR:

Mr. Sears' plea included an "allocution in mitigation" (referred to by PBR above) in which he apologized. It's a standard procedure wherein a defendant following a guilty plea or verdict expresses remorse, possibly honestly, but always in hope of a more lenient sentence. Since Mr. Sears IS guilty (of a BAD [i.e. unconstitutional] law) his pragmatic defense is a guilty plea with allocution. Whether or not he genuinely thinks that what he did is did is wrong or knew ...more
By highhatsize (4178), East Quogue on Sep 10, 13 1:14 PM
1 member liked this comment
Thank you for the detailed reply and acknowledgement of the possible dark side of this. We will probably never know the detailed facts of the worst of this, in my opinion.

I would still ask you to take a second look at whether this is really all "harmless" activity.

One actual crime that comes to mind is Trespassing on private property. Any so-called consent given, based on false pretenses, does not forgive the trespass IMO.

And what happens when the young children learn ...more
By PBR (4952), Southampton on Sep 10, 13 1:33 PM
PS HHS, it is very unlikely IMO that a court would ever rule the applicable law unconstitutional under the FACTS of this case. [ALL the facts, including the ones we don't know about.]

Bad facts don't make good law, and I imagine you know this deep down inside.

Justice was done here, in my opinion, and most appellate judges would agree.
By PBR (4952), Southampton on Sep 10, 13 1:37 PM
HHS -- Regarding the questions asked above about your proffered "harmless" opinion:

"Will they have to turn to their mother and father 10-15 years from now, and ask . . . "

Thank you.
By PBR (4952), Southampton on Sep 12, 13 7:19 AM
to PBR:

The harm to which you refer would be caused by a sanitation worker's inquisitiveness, not by Mr. Sears. The latter's intention was that no one but himself know of the existence of the altered photographs.

(Another poster asserted that Mr. Sears "double-bagged" the photos in question before disposing of them. Further evidence of Mr. Sears' intent that they never see the light of day.)
By highhatsize (4178), East Quogue on Sep 12, 13 12:24 PM
So you DO acknowledge the harm, and just want to quibble over the chain of causation, right? Another smoke screen IMO.

This ain't law school, professor.

Even if there was some kind of theoretical violation of the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights, why didn't he raise this issue in a motion challenging the search, and go to trial?

Further the defendant's "intent" is utterly irrelevant here, and you know it.

He appears to have trespassed on another person's private ...more
By PBR (4952), Southampton on Sep 12, 13 12:51 PM
PS -- He relinquished his right to privacy when he put the photos in the trash, and let the trash leave his private property.

Period.
By PBR (4952), Southampton on Sep 12, 13 12:57 PM
HHS's excuse for it not being a crime ("the latter's intention was that non one but himself known of the existinence of the altered photographs) is a hilarious excuse. I'd love to see HHS tell that to a judge with a straight face.

So, he should NOT have been charged with a crime because he didn't mean for other people to see it?

So if someone finds a bomb in HHS's garbage (after he threw it away) I guess HHS shouldn't be charged with a crime because the bomb was for his personal ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 12, 13 1:03 PM
1 member liked this comment
PBR and Nature pretty much sum it up. HHS, best to step away from your comments and let it go. You are wrong.
By dnice (2346), Hampton Bays on Sep 12, 13 1:13 PM
1 member liked this comment
to Nature and PBR:

You are both quite wrong. Mens rea (evil intent) is a requirement of all crimes but those that are strict liability (like statutory rape.) Your queries as to whether one has the right to expect privacy for one's trash is noted but the absence of that right doesn't change Mr. Sears' intent. PBR, your repeated assertion that Mr. Sears trespassed on someone's property is unsupported, and your further assertion that, " under false pretenses, [he] gained (misplaced) trust, ...more
By highhatsize (4178), East Quogue on Sep 12, 13 2:16 PM
HHS - why don't you march onto the steps of the Capitol and fight this dasterdly "unconstitutional" law. Perhaps Mr. Sears can aid you...
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 12, 13 2:46 PM
Furthermore - you're entirely and utterly wrong. "Intent" need not come into play. My example of your bomb (which you double bagged) is illegal for you to possess. That bomb still has the potential to harm, regardless of the fact that you "threw it away". Same with marijuana plants in your backyard. If for some reason the government found you growing them in your yard, despite no proof of your intent to sell (or even use) you could be charged with possession (no intent required).

Possession ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 12, 13 2:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
I throw my smallhatsize into the ring. A waste of time over here to go any further debating an accomplished smokescreenthrower . . .

Just to clear, the words regarding the defendant's actions were " . . . appears to have . . . "

Fair comment and opinion about a public event.

Ditto to dnice's last sentence just above . . .
By PBR (4952), Southampton on Sep 12, 13 2:53 PM
This was of course some type of crime. One must ask if a sane person would ever do such a thing or even think it up. The man needs to be helped, but 10 years in prison for cutting pictures up is a little much. The gym teacher in WHB was video taping girls and breaking everyone's trust. From what I heard he will probably plea and receive no jail time. Both crimes are bad but I don't understand how the gym teacher goes free and people on this board think Sears deserves 10 years.
By chief1 (2783), southampton on Sep 12, 13 4:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
To Nature & PBR:

To my assertion that this crime harmed no one, that proscribing the behavior will deter no one from engaging in it, and that it violates Constitutional guarantees to no purpose, your latest response is that its criminalization is justified by the harm that might occur were an adult to learn that his photo, appropriated from the trash, had been manipulated when he was a child. While that may be an argument for criminalizing the negligent disposal of garbage, how is it persuasive ...more
By highhatsize (4178), East Quogue on Sep 13, 13 12:54 AM
. . . [Sound of judge's gavel hitting the bench smartly] . . . .

Guilty!
By PBR (4952), Southampton on Sep 13, 13 5:53 AM
Fight the law - not the enforcement.

Possession of child porn is illegal, and for good reason.

Your relentless arguments in support of these materials is disgusting at best. I actually prefer when you rant about the STPD...

Let me ask you something, if you dare divulge. If you dislike so many things about this country's judicial system, its laws, its persecution, its erosion of guarenteed rights etc. etc. (and not to mention that stupendous tax bill that comes to ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 13, 13 9:13 AM
1 member liked this comment
to Nature:

Your persistent inability to distinguish the difference between a principled argument and the approval of a particular activity is remarkable. However, your inability to mount a cogent defense of your own position is less remarkable since it utterly lacks any substance in reason.

Surely one need not explain love of country to you? We Liberals love the democratic republic that the Founding Fathers bequeathed us and watch in dismay as it transforms into a militarized ...more
By highhatsize (4178), East Quogue on Sep 13, 13 12:06 PM
The defense of my position is this:

The law states that it's illegal to possess these materials. He plead guilty to possession. If (in your opinion) that's a violation of one's rights and the constitution, then fight the LAW not the enforcement of the law. As a citizen of the US, he had the right to a fair trial and he chose to forgo it and plead guilty.

Your whole argument is predicated on ifs ands or buts to which the details you do not know, nor is anyone else arguing. ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Sep 13, 13 2:07 PM
... Hat - you can not assert that these photos were for his eyes only. Nothing has been stated or written proving that, as much as I hate to think this.

Do you really think that by Sears throwing out the photos out the game is over? Or is it just time to take more photos?
By William Rodney (558), southampton on Sep 13, 13 12:48 PM
Down the rabbit hole we go . . .
By PBR (4952), Southampton on Sep 13, 13 1:01 PM
I applaud HHS for taking on a pack of wolves (ignorant ones), but you don't have to fight this solo. I acknowledge that the current laws do state something along the lines of computer generated images of child pornography.This can be construed as lolicon/shotacon (cartoon images depicting children in sexual activities).

The current law set in place are at best a good example of decriminalization of thought crimes. Think about it this way, Sears could have just as easily obtained a copy ...more
By SchuzWaffles (1), Massappequa on Oct 26, 13 11:11 AM
I do not condone what he did. It was private and in my eyes disgusting but it was for his eyes and imagination only. I feel very sorry for Jay not to have a family life.
Jay has helped so many people in need. With this arrest and public humiliation loss of his business and time served and to be considered a sex offender I hope the court finds this enough punishment.
What a way to end such a talented career.
By jjs (1), East Quogue on Apr 1, 14 9:03 AM
power tools, home improvements, building supplies, Eastern Long Island