Mayfield man may be released before trial

ALBANY – A Mayfield man accused of producing child pornography can be released into the custody of his parents, a U.S. District Court judge ruled Monday during a detention hearing.

However, the prosecutor said he will appeal the decision. Until the appeal is ruled on, he said, Robert Hastings will stay in the Rensselaer County Jail.

Robert Hastings, 21, of 171 Yates Road, Mayfield, was accused alongside his brother Richard, 18, by federal authorities Thursday with producing child pornography.

According to complaints, between July 27 and 29, the brothers produced sexually explicit photographs of a 7-year-old child and posted some of them on a website and emailed some to an undercover investigator with Queensland Police Services in Australia.

Richard Hastings, who appeared in court Friday, was placed in the custody of the U.S. Marshals.

Sean O’Dowd, assistant U.S. attorney and prosecutor of the case, said Richard Hastings confessed to touching the victim.

In court Monday, O’Dowd requested Robert Hastings also be held in custody.

O’Dowd said Robert Hastings shot two videos with a webcam, one 40 seconds long and another roughly two minutes. The videos include lewd images of the victim.

Robert Hastings’ attorney, Paul Evangelista, requested Robert Hastings’ release.

Evangelista said Robert Hastings’ case was not as serious as his Richard’s, due to him not being engaged in any touching or direct sexual acts with the victim.

O’Dowd argued Robert Hastings is a risk to the community. O’Dowd said Robert Hastings had confessed to creating the video.

The prosecutor said Robert Hastings is facing a severe charge, and shows signs of mental distress and lacks ties to the community.

“There is basically nothing to keep [Robert] from fleeing,” O’Dowd said.

Evangelista disagreed, saying Robert could be placed on an ankle monitoring unit and kept inside his home, with no access to a computer.

Judge Randolph Treece, who oversaw the proceedings Monday, decided to allow Robert Hastings to stay with his mother, Mary Bergh, at her home in Mayfield under certain conditions.

First, Treece said, because Bergh may be a witness, no conversations regarding the case may occur. Secondly, Robert Hastings would have to submit himself for any tests or evaluations the pre-trial services department would wish to hold. Also, with the installation of a electronic monitoring unit in the home, Hastings will not be allowed to leave the residence unless he is in the company of his parents and has permission from the court.

It was unclear this morning when the appeal will be ruled on.

If found guilty of production of child pornography, each of the defendants would face a minimum of 15 years in prison and up to a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, and a maximum fine of $250,000.