By Ed Runyan, The Vindicator
ERIE, Pa. — Matthew E. Poese, former Camp Fitch executive director, was sentenced Monday to one day in jail, one year of house detention and ordered to pay a $5,000 fine for possessing child pornography.
Poese also will be on probation for five years.
Camp Fitch, in North Springfield, Pa., between Conneaut and Erie, Pa., is operated by the Youngstown YMCA.
Poese, 48, of Fairview, Pa., pleaded guilty in August in federal court here to one felony count of possessing material depicting the sexual exploitation of a minor. U.S. District Judge David Cercone sentenced Poese Monday.
Federal prosecutors said Poese’s offense involved “prepubescent minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct,” though Poese’s attorney said in a recent court filing that his offense involved only one image.
Attorney Stephen E. Sebald, who represents Poese, stated in the filing that Poese was charged after Microsoft law enforcement agents told federal investigators that on Jan. 15 a user viewed a file that the company believed to be child pornography.
Poese was in possession of the material between November 2018 and June of this year, and it was saved to his personal computer, according to a bill of information filed by prosecutors.
Tom Gacse, CEO of YMCA of Youngstown, said earlier that Poese was fired and banned from Camp Fitch June 19 in response to the charges. Gacse said Poese’s work computer also was forensically examined and found not to contain any illegal material.
Furthermore, prosecutors have not given any indication that the child pornography involved any Camp Fitch campers or “was in any way related to Camp Fitch,” Gacse said.
Sebald’s filing says Poese has no criminal history and has been on house arrest since Aug. 10.
Poese earned a Ph.D. at Penn State University, where he later worked as a professor and volunteered at Camp Fitch, the filing says. He also joined fellow engineers in traveling to New York City after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and used his expertise with “acoustical technology” to help find survivors, the filing adds.
Camp Fitch’s website says the camp has been “growing kids stronger” for 100 years. “Although the location changed to the shores of Lake Erie over 85 years ago, we still live by the Christian values upon which we were founded to model and instill in kids,” it says.
“More than 16,000 people visit Camp Fitch for at least a few days every year through our resident summer camp, classroom field trips, retreats and other outdoor adventures.”