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Law Clerk Sentenced to 4 Years on Child Porn, Taping Charges

April 29, 2011|By Michelle Theriault Boots | KTUU.com

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Daniel Eisman may not have had it all, but for a time he had a lot: a wife, an infant son, a clerkship with a federal judge in Anchorage and a close circle of friends.

Now, the former federal law clerk faces four years in prison, years of probation, disbarment, registry as a sex offender and a divorce.

In Anchorage Superior Court on Thursday, Eisman admitted that he secretly videotaped friends and colleagues in private situations and pleaded guilty to charges of indecent viewing and felony possession of child pornography found on his home computer.

"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 20 minutes to tear it down," Judge Gregory Miller told Eisman at his sentencing. "You've succeeded like no one I've ever seen before in doing that."

The California-bred attorney, 36, was a fixture in a clique of young lawyers taking part in the prestigious federal judicial clerkship program in Anchorage, many from out of state. He was known for hosting parties, organizing cabin trips and playing in a summer softball league.

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But on May 5 of 2010 his co-clerk, while staying over to babysit his son, discovered on his personal computer a trove of videos of herself and other friends, taken in "their most vulnerable moments."

The victim, identified by the court as "D," said she'd developed a close bond with both Eisman and his wife -- attending their child's birth, spending holidays with their family and regularly babysitting overnight to give the new mother a few hours of needed sleep. In exchange, Eisman's wife would pack her box lunches affixed with encouraging notes.

She had been looking on the family computer, with permission, for "regular, normal" pictures Eisman had taken of the group at Fur Rendezvous when she stumbled on clips of herself and others undressing, using the bathroom and even showering. The videos were filmed on tiny cameras hidden in lamps, carbon monoxide detectors and picture frames around Eisman's home and a family cabin. Six victims were identified by their initials in the charges.

"The clips would start with me taking my clothes off and end after I had put them back on," she told the court at Eisman’s sentencing on Thursday. 

The clips were meticulously organized, she said, with some labeled "good."

"It's a horrible thing to turn your former best friend in to the police," she said. 

Eisman was arrested in the judicial chambers he worked in. Judge Timothy Burgess' judicial assistant described the breach of trust, saying she was appalled that Eisman had access to sensitive legal information.

On the first day of their clerking jobs, she said she gave clerks a book titled "Maintaining the Public Trust: Ethics for Federal Law Clerks."

A search of computers and hard drives turned up many more clips of Eisman's friends, taken without their knowledge, as well as more than 200 images of child pornography.

Most disturbing, one victim said in a statement, was the revelation that there were non-pornographic photos of Eisman's own infant son mixed in with the child pornography, seemingly so that he could view one and then the other quickly.

Eisman sat silently wearing a dark suit and nodded occasionally as the victims read scathing statements about trust, betrayal and the impact the filming had on their lives.

Eisman admitted that he surreptitiously taped his friends and co-workers, calling his behavior an "addiction that spiraled out of control" and a "complete moral failing."

"I'm trying hard to mend what has been broken," he said.

He said he had been in therapy and hoped victims would be able to take some solace in knowing what he had lost.

"I destroyed so many things so quickly: a career, a marriage, and many, many friendships," he said, breaking into tears.

After Eisman's four year prison sentence, he'll be required to register as a sex offender for the next 15 years.

"It's a form of a life sentence, and perhaps appropriately so," Judge Miller said.

After the sentencing, Eisman was led out of the courthouse in handcuffs.

As he left one of the victims captured the scene with a cell phone camera.

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