Caught on Grindr: California university professor indicted on child porn possession charges

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A federal grand jury indicted a university professor living in West Sacramento who is accused of possessing child pornography after he was snared in an undercover FBI investigation, prosecutors said.

Rodger Githens, 45, has been charged with receiving and distributing images of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento.

Githens is an associate professor at the University of the Pacific in Stockton; his expertise and research focus on human resources development.

He was arrested on April 19, and the grand jury indicted him on Thursday. Githens remained in custody Monday at the Fresno County Jail. Githens appeared for his arraignment Thursday in federal court. He pleaded not guilty and was ordered to return to court July 12 for further proceedings in his case.

Federal prosecutors said Githens in late March was using an online profile called “Tall laid back” and initiated contact with an account on the Grindr app used by an undercover FBI agent. Githens allegedly encouraged the undercover FBI agent to create an account on the Telegram app, because it was considered more secure.

Githens several times discussed traveling to Fresno to meet the undercover agent and a supposed 7-year-old niece for sexual purposes, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The FBI, with help from the West Sacramento Police Department, served a search warrant at Githens’ home on April 19, confiscating multiple electronic devices.

Prosecutors said investigators discovered numerous Telegram chats on Githens’ phone, including several in which he exchanged and commented on videos of young children being sexually abused.

University of the Pacific officials told KCRA 3 last month that Githens was immediately placed on indefinite administrative leave. UOP officials also said that while there was no indication of illegal acts on campus or involving university property, the university was launching an independent review by an external investigator.

If convicted, Githens could face five to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000 and parole for the rest of his life, prosecutors said.