Mount Pleasant Chief Brian Fanelli, 54, who has been in office about two months, was arrested Thursday by Homeland Security agents.
In a complaint filed with the court, an agent says Fanelli told investigators that he first viewed child pornography as sex-abuse research for the classes he was teaching at a grade school and a middle school. But he added that he then began viewing the images "for personal interest," the complaint said.
Fanelli was arrested at his home in Mahopac, and appeared before a federal magistrate judge in White Plains. He was released on a $50,000 bond that his wife agreed to co-sign. Judge Lisa Margaret Smith ordered home detention with electronic monitoring and barred him from Internet access and any association with children.
Just a short time after being released on $50,000 bond, sources say Fanelli's wife called 911, stating her husband was having a nervous breakdown.
It's a stunning fall for the 32-year veteran who was appointed chief in November.
Fanelli did not enter a plea to the charge of possessing child pornography. His attorney, Susanne Brody, would not comment after the court session.
If convicted, Fanelli could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Feb. 19.
Mount Pleasant, about 25 miles north of New York City, has a population of about 44,000. Fanelli first joined its police department in 1981. Town Supervisor Joan Maybury, who called the arrest "disturbing," said Fanelli was suspended with pay in accordance with his contract. His annual salary is about $136,000.
Mount Pleasant police officers were involved in the events surrounding the 2010 police killing of Danroy Henry Jr., a Pace University football player, and a lawyer for the Henry family has accused Fanelli of falsifying some details. No one was charged, but a lawsuit is pending.
The complaint says agents using investigative software tracked pornography downloads to Fanelli's computer. It said 125 files suspected of being child pornography were downloaded between October and December - as Fanelli was being promoted.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara issued a statement saying it was disturbing and sad that a police chief is accused of breaking a law "designed to protect the youngest and most vulnerable of our population from vile exploitation."