John Tighe quickly took ownership of the computers being seized during an October 2013 raid on his home in Milton.
State police had originally secured a warrant to seize certain electronics from the author of the controversial blog “Saratoga In Decline” after he had illegally accessed the computer system of NXIVM, an Albany County-based executive development program frequently derided as a cult in his posts. But as they collected his hardware, Tighe made a stark and frank admission.
“All the computer stuff is mine,” he told an investigator. “My wife doesn’t know anything about computer stuff. She has no knowledge of what’s on there.”
What was on his computers and external hard drives was a trove of child pornography — enough to possibly put him behind bars for 20 years. On Monday, Tighe admitted in federal court that he was receiving and possessing child porn, including some featuring girls as young as 7 years old.
As a result of his plea, Tighe faces a mandatory minimum of five years in federal prison and will also need to register as a sex offender once released. Defense Attorney Lee Kindlon said little about the video conference plea before U.S. District Court Judge Thomas McAvoy.
“I look forward to putting forth a vigorous sentencing argument on his behalf,” Kindlon said, declining to discuss the case further.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Cox asked that Tighe be held behind bars pending his June 8 sentencing. But Kindlon successfully argued that Tighe should be allowed to remain out on bail due to a number of serious medical conditions, including diabetes, peripheral neuropathy and intestinal cancer.
Tighe, 57, is already facing up to a year in prison for admitting in November to one felony count of computer trespass stemming from the intrusion that initially spurred state police to seek a search warrant. He was one of four people targeted by investigators, who also seized computers and computer-related documents from individuals in Schenectady and in the Rochester area.
After the raid, Tighe pulled his blog posts off-line and told readers his site would remain closed until further notice. The normally outspoken Tighe — a vitriolic critic of public figures ranging from Saratoga Springs Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen to Albany County District Attorney David Soares — has remained largely silent since he was first charged, and his blog has since vanished from the Web.
The complaint by NXIVM founder Keith Raniere alleged a larceny of computer-related information, though investigators haven’t elaborated on what was accessed or taken.
Tighe is expected to be sentenced in the hacking case in Albany County Court on Friday, though the proceeding has already been postponed twice.
In his plea Monday, Tighe admitted that in June 2013, he used Western Digital TV to access various websites and file-sharing networks to download child pornography. In all, Tighe admitted to storing more than 400 videos and roughly 40,000 images depicting minors, including some that were prepubescent, engaged in sexually explicit poses or conduct.
As part of the plea, prosecutors acknowledged Tighe did not intend to distribute his files to others. But they also found that some of the depraved images he kept showed children engaging in “sadistic or masochistic conduct,” according to the plea agreement.
Reach Gazette reporter Justin Mason at 395-3113 or [email protected]