April 20, 2022 440 PM
PECOS — A grand jury last week indicted Albert Ackley, a Valentine ISD teacher of 19 years who previously taught in Marfa, on one count of possession of child pornography and one count of distribution of child pornography.
In addition to the existing child pornography charges, Ackley, 59, has confessed to having sexual contact with children in the past, and those instances are under investigation by the Texas Department of Public Safety. At a preliminary hearing for Ackley, at a Pecos federal courthouse on March 31, Texas DPS Special Agent Adam Patterson testified that the department was able to identify “four possible juvenile victims” through interviews with Ackley.
Ackley, when between 30 and 33 years in age, had told a victim in Marfa who was a minor at the time to “completely undress” in front of him, said Patterson. The victim has been identified and interviewed by Patterson, but has not yet provided a victim’s statement, he said. Ackley also spoke of another, younger victim in Marfa he had contact with while in his early 30s, said Patterson, who noted he had spoken to that victim but that she said she does not recall the offense.
According to a criminal complaint filed upon Ackley’s arrest, which was based on a sworn affidavit by Special Agent Patterson, Ackley told DPS he had sexual contact with two female children when he was around 20 years old — one victim was 8 years old and the other was 12 years old.
A Texas DPS spokesperson said that the investigation is ongoing, and no further details were available as of press time.
At the time of his arrest, Ackley was a high school math teacher for Valentine ISD, where he had been employed for 19 years. Prior to that, he had worked at Marfa ISD as a math, science and computer teacher, and eventually as the school district’s technology coordinator.
Ackley was detained on March 15 when Special Agent Patterson executed a search warrant at his Valentine home and asked Ackley whether he knew who had used the internet on the property to look at child pornography — Ackley openly admitted that he had, then waived his Miranda rights to continue cooperating with authorities after being taken to the Jeff Davis County Sheriff’s Office, according to a criminal complaint.
Texas DPS had been acting on a cybercrime tip notifying the agency that someone with Ackley’s IP address was uploading child pornography, inculding videos depicting female children between the ages of 9 and 12, via a smartphone application called KIK Messenger. The search of Ackley’s home uncovered a memory card with three videos of child pornography, one depicting a female child approximately three or four years old and the other two depicted female children approximately 11 to 12 years old.
Other electronic devices taken from the home are still being investigated, said Patterson, who said devices had been sent to a Homeland Security Investigations lab in El Paso. Texas DPS is also still combing through files uploaded via KIK, he said.
While being questioned by DPS, per the criminal complaint, Ackley confessed that, in addition to sending and receiving child pornography upwards of 50 times, he had used the application to engage in inappropriate exchanges with underage girls. Patterson noted in his testimony that Ackley admitted to speaking with three children via the app, and that those children had not been identified.
Authorities also searched the Valentine school, where Ackley worked, on March 15. Valentine ISD Superintendent and Principal Debbie Engle told The Big Bend Sentinel following the search that nothing criminal had been discovered on school devices, and no victims associated with the school had been identified. Engle described the disturbing revelation as a shock to those at the school. “I have ex-students that have called, and they don’t believe it,” she said. “There has been nobody that has come forward with so much as a whisper.” The school obtained Ackley’s resignation on March 17, she said.
At the March 31 hearing, Ackley’s younger brother also spoke as a witness, and was questioned both by Matthew Ellis of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alpine and by Jack Meredith, the public defender assigned to represent Ackley. His questioning focused mostly on the relationship between Albert Ackley and his longtime romantic partner in Valentine, who was in poor health and, by the brother’s understanding, dependent upon Ackley as her sole caregiver.
Meredith asked the court to consider granting bond, while acknowledging that bond in such a case was a rarity, so that Ackley could ensure his partner was taken care of — she suffers from kidney failure, requiring dialysis, suffers chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and requires insulin for her diabetes, he said. “She told me if Mr. Ackley does not get out that she thinks that she’ll be dead soon,” he said. He noted that all electronic devices had been removed from the home.
Ellis argued on behalf of the government that Ackley presented a danger to the community and should not be granted bond. “The government would just like to note that the defendant has admitted to years of engaging in these types of activities, and there has been even an admission of him acting on them with children,” said Ellis. “He held a position of trust, a position of responsibility in the community.”
The government’s concern was that Ackley would harm children if released, Ellis continued. “The government does not believe there is an amount of money that can be paid to ensure a child is not harmed in this situation,” he said.
Judge David B. Fannin acknowledged the unfortunate reality that Ackley’s partner, an innocent bystander, was suffering as a result of his detainment, but said that the court could not overlook the danger Ackley posed, and ordered him detained without bond.
The grand jury indictment was filed on April 14. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Texas, which is prosecuting the case, declined to comment, citing pending litigation. Public defender Jack Meredith did not return a request for comment by press time.
Updated 4/21/22 to include Ackley’s current age