Robert Eckert, former executive director of the Lutz Children’s Museum in Manchester, Connecticut, has been sentenced to five and a half years in prison for distributing child pornography, according to a January 3 statement from the US Attorney’s Office.
In June 2020, authorities uncovered 1,837 images and 73 videos of sexually explicit content involving prepubescent minors and young teenagers on Eckert’s cellphone, 32 of which depicted child victims identified by law enforcement. Eckert, 57, was placed on administrative leave and eventually fired from the museum, and in April 2021, he was arrested. He plead guilty in September 2022 and will begin his federal prison sentence on February 15.
Eckert received and distributed child pornography on various Internet platforms using various fictitious accounts, and accessed the sites both at home and while at work.
“It is axiomatic that sharing images depicting child sexual abuse is antithetical to the mission of a children’s museum,” wrote the prosecutors in their sentencing memo, which was reviewed by Hyperallergic. “But, to make it even worse, Eckert traded child pornography from his office in the Lutz.”
In a statement shared with Hyperallergic, a Lutz Children’s Museum spokesperson said there is no evidence that any museum visitor, volunteer, or staff member was impacted by Eckert’s actions.
“From the moment the allegations concerning Robert Eckert came to light, the Lutz Children’s Museum has taken any and all steps necessary to protect the safety and well-being of its patrons, volunteers and staff,” the spokesperson said, adding that the museum will continue to cooperate with all legal investigations. The representative did not confirm the dates of Eckert’s tenure at the institution.
Eckert’s attorney, Trent LaLima, said in a statement that Eckert has been receiving mental health treatment and attending sex offender group therapy sessions since his arrest. LaLima added that Eckert’s wife of 16 years has divorced him and he no longer has a relationship with his ex-wife’s children nor with one of his biological children. LaLima has not yet responded to Hyperallergic’s immediate request for comment.
The sentencing memo states that Eckert’s actions were not “a single blip in a life that was otherwise well-lived” but rather “at least a year of trading child pornography.” US Attorney for the District of Connecticut Vanessa Roberts Avery emphasized the continued harm to child pornography victims: “Victims live with persistent concern over who has seen images of their sexual abuse and suffer by knowing that the images depicting the worst moments of their lives are being used for pleasure and sexual gratification.”