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Dennis, Debra . Free-Net Founder Admits to Child Pornography. Plain Dealer, The Ed. The Cleveland Plain Dealer. 1 Apr. 1997: 1B.
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|1B||A former college professor and computer systems founder pleaded guilty yesterday to possessing child pornography.
Thomas M. Grundner, founder of the Cleveland Free-Net computer system and a former assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University Medical School, was charged last month in an information. Being charged in an information means Grundner has waived his right to require that prosecutors take their case against him before a federal grand jury.
Federal officials said Grundner possessed books, magazines, films and videotapes depicting minors engaging in sexually explict acts.
The officials said some of the material had been mailed or shipped through interstate commerce on Feb. 23, 1996. Other material was downloaded from the Internet.
Grundner, 51, of Cleveland Heights and Shreveport, La., was charged following an FBI probe.
Grundner entered the plea before U.S. District Judge Sam Bell. Grundner was released from custody after posting $25,000 bond.
Bell ordered Grundner to surrender his passport, but allowed him limited travel for job interviews.
Sentencing is set for June 9. Grundner faces up to five years in prison and/or $250,000 in fines.
"There is a plea agreement, and we're recommending he get credit for accepting responsibility," Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Getz said.
The investigation continues, and Grundner has agreed to cooperate in the government's probe, Getz said.
Grundner founded Free-Net while he was an assistant professor in the family medicine department at the CWRU medical school.
Free-Net, the largest public computer network in the country, was founded in 1986 after Grundner began it as a simple bulletin board.
Grundner left Free-Net and CWRU in 1992 and devoted himself full time to the National Public Telecomputing Network, which he founded to promote the free-net concept in rural areas.