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Ex-principal gets 4 years for child porn

Authorities confirm videos did not depict local children

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William Buzzell, flanked by attorneys Neil McElroy, left, and Jeff Helmick, reacts as he hears he must spend the next four years in prison.

THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
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BOWLING GREEN -- With his family and friends in the courtroom to lend moral support, William Buzzell, former principal of Rossford's Glenwood Elementary School, was sent to prison Thursday for four years for downloading child pornography on his home computer.

Wood County Common Pleas Judge Reeve Kelsey also ordered Buzzell, 46, of Perrysburg to spend five years after his release from prison on community control, completing any recommendations for mental health and sexual offender treatment, holding down a job, performing 300 hours of community service, and giving his probation officer access to any computers in his home or place of employment.

Judge Kelsey also deemed Buzzell a sexually oriented offender and said he must register as such with the sheriff in the county in which he lives.

Buzzell did not offer an explanation or apology when asked whether he would like to address the court, saying simply, "No, your honor. Thank you. I'll trust your judgment."

His sentence was the recommendation settled upon by prosecutors and defense attorneys for Buzzell, who pleaded no contest and was found guilty March 5 of three counts of pandering sexually oriented material involving a minor and one count of possession of criminal tools. As part of that agreement, Buzzell permanently surrendered his principal's license with the Ohio Department of Education.

Heather Baker, an assistant Wood County prosecutor, told the court the case demanded prison because of Buzzell's former job with Rossford schools.

"The defendant was a middle school principal," she said. "He was in a position of trust and authority, and in looking at the videos that he was viewing there were some kids that were approximately the age of the kids he was responsible for that were located on these videos."

Ms. Baker acknowledged that none of the children depicted in the videos he downloaded were local children and that Buzzell had no prior criminal record.

"I wasn't surprised by that fact," she said. "Child pornography offenders commit their crimes in secret. They don't typically have a lot of criminal history to speak of."

Still, she said, it's not a victimless crime.

"It's important that every one in this courtroom, including those that are here in support of Mr. Buzzell, understand that there are actual victims in these child pornography cases, and that occurs every time a video is downloaded and viewed," Ms. Baker said. "As this court is aware, all this does is create a market for individuals to produce such materials, which in turn creates more victims out there."

Buzzell's attorney, Jeff Helmick, said his client had been cooperative throughout the investigation and that he had the benefit of a supportive family, including his wife and three children, who were in court with him.

"I know their support for him is sincere. I know that his attitude regarding the seriousness of these offenses, the conduct, and the court's responsibilities also is sincere," Mr. Helmick said.

Buzzell, who was hired as Glenwood principal in 2000, has been on unpaid leave from the school district since the school board voted to suspend him in March, 2011. In January the board voted to fire Buzzell, prompting him to file a civil suit seeking reinstatement, back pay, and benefits. That case is pending.

Ms. Baker said after the hearing that investigators did not find any evidence at the school to indicate he was committing the offenses on school property.

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