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As the Durham coordinator of a federal anti-gun violence program, Robert Faggart reaching out to clergy and other citizens to help solve crimes. But when he was off the clock, Faggart admitted to interviewers during the process of applying to be a police officer, he downloaded child pornography.

Durham police employee downloads child porn, leaves job, faces no charges 

As the Durham coordinator of a federal anti-gun violence program, Robert Faggart canvassed neighborhoods after shootings, reaching out to clergy and other citizens to help solve crimes. But when he was off the clock, Faggart admitted to interviewers during the process of applying to be a police officer, he downloaded child pornography, according to a sealed search warrant obtained by the Independent. (Download the search warrant [PDF, 960 KB].)

Faggart left his job with Project Safe Neighborhoods last fall, about three weeks after Durham police seized several computers and hard drives from his home. He has not been criminally charged.

Faggart did not return phone calls seeking comment.

In June 2007, Faggart, a department employee but not an officer, was a candidate for a job as a police recruit. In an interview prior to a standard lie-detector test, Faggart admitted "downloading child pornography several times from the Internet" within the last year "out of curiosity," according to the search warrant. His test results, referenced in the search warrant, suggested he downloaded more porn than he acknowledged.

During the polygraph exam, when asked, "Are you withholding any information now that could disqualify you from employment as a police officer?" Faggart responded "no"—but his physiological response indicated deception, according to documents.

On Oct. 23, some of the department's top brass—the warrant doesn't specify names—instructed Detective Christopher Chappell to investigate Faggart, based on the polygraph results. Chappell, a deputy U.S. Marshal who works on the FBI's Cyber Crime Task Force, asked a judge in Durham County Superior Court for a warrant to search Faggart's home. On Oct. 24—more than four months after the polygraph exam—police seized two computers, a hard drive, six flash drives and a roll of film.

Department spokeswoman Kammie Michael says police didn't recover any incriminating images.

"The investigation has been completed and nothing illegal was found on the computers," Michael wrote in an e-mail. "There was no evidence of criminal activity, which is why the case has not been turned over for prosecution."

In requesting the search warrant, Chappell submitted a list of "facts to establish probable cause" in the case. After describing the polygraph results, Chappell asserted: "This admission of behavior constituted a violation of NCGS 14-190.17A, Third Degree Sexual Exploitation of a Minor."

According to sources inside the police department, Faggart was ushered into an office days after police searched his home, and then escorted out of police headquarters with a box of his belongings. The City of Durham's human resources department says Faggart's last day of work was Nov. 14; personnel law does not permit the city to divulge the circumstances of his departure.

Chappell, the detective who handled the case, did not respond to a request for an interview. Police Chief Jose Lopez, who has come under fire recently for failing to respond to public complaints about his department, also did not return calls.

At press time, the police department's Project Safe Neighborhoods Web site still listed Faggart as the coordinator.

As coordinator of Project Safe Neighborhoods, Faggart was an expert on youth gangs and gun violence, presenting at conferences throughout the state and across the country. He also serves on the boards of directors of several organizations, including North Carolinians Against Gun Violence and Durham Businesses Against Crime. Faggart is also vice chairman of the Durham Community Collaborative, which coordinates the local System of Care, an integrated treatment plan for troubled juveniles.

The details of the search and seizure were secret until earlier this month. Search warrants and inventories of seized items are usually public record, but Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson honored the police department's request to seal the records to maintain the confidentiality of Faggart's personnel file. Citing the law that protects personnel records, Hudson wrote in an order dated Oct. 24: "The non-disclosure of the search warrant, supplemental attachments and inventory in furtherance of this investigation would be in the interest of the enforcement of the law and the administration of justice in North Carolina."

On Feb. 19, Hudson released the search warrant and other documents from the file in response to a letter from the Independent's attorney, Amanda Martin, who often represents the N.C. Press Association and its members in matters involving public records. Hudson did not respond to a phone message requesting an interview about why he sealed and later released the documents.

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