Former Niskayuna student found with child porn receives probation

PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER Niskayuna High School on Balltown Road in Niskayuna Wednesday, April 9, 2014.PETER R. BARBER/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER Niskayuna High School on Balltown Road in Niskayuna Wednesday, April 9, 2014.

By Steven Cook

— The former Niskayuna High School student who admitted to child pornography possession received 10 years probation and youthful offender status Thursday morning.

Angelo Cavallaro, now 18, was one of two former Niskayuna students arrested in connection with an investigation into images found on a thumb drive found hidden inside a book at the school last year.

Cavallaro’s charge stemmed from two images found on his home computer downloaded from the internet. Police seized Cavallaro’s computer as part of their investigation into the thumb drive, authorities have said.

Cavallaro pleaded guilty in August to one count of possession of a sexual performance by a child, a felony.

The plea deal called for the 10 years of probation and possible youthful offender status. Prosecutor John Carson has cited Cavallaro’s age at the time — 17 — and the limited number of images as reasons for the deal.

In court Thursday, Carson noted a pre-sentence investigation by the probation department also recommended youthful offender status. When granted, the status essentially seals the case and removes the conviction from the defendant’s record.

Carson repeated the other factors, adding that Cavallaro has expressed remorse and acknowledged his guilt in saying that the interests of justice would be served by granting the status.

Cavallaro appeared with his attorney James Knox. Cavallaro did not give a statement himself. Knox joined in Carson’s recommendation.

Judge Matthew Sypniewski indicated he took all factors into account and granted the status.

The judge noted Cavallaro’s expression of remorse and shame at his actions.

“I do hope that is sincere, Mr. Cavallaro,” Sypniewski said, “and as a result of counseling you’ve received are perhaps aware of or know better that even images of this nature, they still are harmful.”

The images perpetuate a predatory culture online, the judge told Cavallaro.

“I hope you appreciate that now and I trust you do,” Sypniewski said.

The youthful offender status means Cavallaro won’t have to register as a sex offender; however, his probation still will have sex offender restrictions, officials have said.

Police discovered the child pornography images on Cavallaro’s computer in June 2015 while investigating the thumb drive discovered hidden inside a book at the Niskayuna High School library.

Officials said images and videos on the drive, along with a list of female student names, raised suspicions at least one male student had secretly filmed other students.

According to paperwork filed earlier in Cavallaro’s felony case, police zeroed in on another student, Christopher Khan. Khan allegedly admitted that he took pictures and videos of Niskayuna High School students without their knowledge or consent.

The allegations have led to plans by the Niskayuna Central School District to add a prohibition on “upskirting” and “voyeurism” to its code of conduct, district officials recently said.

Police originally charged Khan with felony attempted unlawful surveillance and misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a child. The status of those charges could not be determined.

Police said Khan admitted last year to owning the thumb drive and said he sold the surreptitiously taken pictures to Cavallaro, according to documents filed earlier in Cavallaro’s case.

Police soon questioned Cavallaro and he allegedly admitted to paying Khan for a picture or video, but said he did it once, not multiple times, the documents said.

Police said Cavallaro denied knowledge of the thumb drive but told investigators that he had seen child pornography on the internet, the documents read. He didn’t believe he had any on his computer. The charges filed alleged that he possessed pornographic images of children on his laptop, which was recovered from his Van Vranken Avenue home.