STEPHENVILLE - An Erath County grand jury returned a three-count indictment for possession of child pornography against a former Tarleton State University professor who did research in child sexual abuse. Thomas M. Dougherty, 42, of Stephenville, was indicted Wednesday and turned himself in to the Erath County Sheriff’s Department today.
The Tarleton State University Police Department began investigating Dougherty in December 2007 after a student working near Dougherty’s office discovered a suspicious computer folder with the professor’s name on it. The student reported the discovery to campus police, who referred the case to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s Cyber Crimes Unit. The Attorney General’s investigators conducted a forensic analysis of Dougherty’s office computer, which allegedly uncovered several images and videos of child pornography.
“This defendant, a psychologist specializing in sexually abused children, is charged with possessing child pornography,” Attorney General Abbott said. “The Cyber Crimes Unit will continue aggressively prosecuting those who prey on children online. We are grateful to the Tarleton State University Police Department - and to a very alert college student - for their assistance with this case.”
When the investigation was opened last year, Dougherty was a tenured professor in the university’s psychology department. According to his resume, he specialized in learning disabilities, child and infant cognitive development, and child sexual abuse.
Under Texas law, possession of child pornography is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. Assistant Attorney General Angela Goodwin is prosecuting the case. Tarleton State University and its parent organization, the Texas A&M University system, are fully cooperating with the Cyber Crimes Unit’s investigation.
Attorney General Abbott has earned a national reputation for aggressively arresting and prosecuting child predators. Since 2003, the Cyber Crimes Unit and Fugitive Unit have arrested more than 600 sex predators. Prosecutors also have obtained convictions against more than 70 men on child pornography charges.
Parents or students who have questions or relevant information about this case may contact Sgt. Les St. James with the Office of the Attorney General at (800) 252-8011.