Hastings denied home release

ALBANY – A Mayfield man who expected to live at home while awaiting trial on child pornography charges will instead remain in federal custody after the chief judge of United States District Court revoked an earlier judge’s decision to release him.

In a sharply worded 10-page decision, Judge Gary Sharpe in U.S. District Court in Albany said Robert Hastings is “dangerous to children” and “a pedophile who has not only produced a pornographic video of [a seven-year-old] but has sexually abused her as well.”

Hastings, 22, was charged with his brother, Richard, 18, on Aug. 8 after Homeland Security agents raided their family home on Yates Road in the town and seized evidence they say implicated the men in the production of child pornography, including a video produced earlier that week.

Agents found Richard Hastings in the same bed as the 7-year-old girl, according to the criminal complaint. At a detention hearing the next day, U.S. Magistrate Judge Randolph F. Treece ordered Richard Hastings into the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. He has been held at the Rensselaer County Jail in Troy since then, according to public records.

But at Robert Hastings’ detention hearing a week later, Treece allowed Robert Hastings to be released into the custody of his parents and denied a motion by the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean O’Dowd, to have a stay issued. But in a separate, expedited legal action, Sharpe granted O’Dowd a stay of release that same day. Hasting has remained with his brother in the Rensselaer County Jail, public records show.

Through fall, O’Dowd and Robert Hastings’ court-appointed attorney, Paul J. Evangelista of Albany, exchanged court filings, with Evangelista pointing to Hastings’ community ties, limited means to flee and Hasting’s suggestion that a video’s pornographic significance is “arguable.”

After viewing the video, Sharpe was unmoved.

“There is absolutely no question in the court’s mind that a group of twelve reasonable people will conclude that it constitutes child pornography, and that Hastings produced it,” Sharpe wrote in his Dec. 20 decision.

Sharpe also brushed off Evangelista’s suggestion that Hastings would be well-supervised by family members if he were released into their custody.

“Further diminishing the value of mom’s watchful eye is the fact that when the police arrived at [the] house, Hastings’ eighteen-year-old brother – a self-proclaimed pedophile and ‘monster’ – was in bed with the child while mom relaxed on the front porch,” Sharpe noted

Sharpe added that while electronic monitoring would not give him much assurance in this case, since the alleged crime occurred in Hastings’ home.

“Electronic monitoring might provide notice that a defendant has left home but hardly controls enticement of youngsters into that home,” he said.

No trial dates have been set. Both cases have received continuances, allowing the prosecutor and attorneys to work on the cases outside of the courtroom. Each defendant faces 15 to 30 years in prison and fines up to $250,000.

O’Dowd referred calls to Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth C. Coombe, who could not be reached for comment for this story. Evangelista could not be reached at his office Friday.

Richard Hastings also is facing related charges of sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child in Mayfield Town Court after being charged on those counts in October. He pleaded not guilty. A trial date has not been set.