Hilliard Northwest News

Former music booster ordered to appear in California court Oct. 26

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Former Hilliard music boosters vice president William F. Blackhall received a continuance Oct. 12 in the Superior Court of California in Orange County in connection with a felony charge of possession and control of child pornography.

Blackhall, a resident of the Columbus portion of the Hilliard school district, has been ordered to appear Oct. 26 for a pretrial in Orange County Superior Court to answer charges for his July 25 arrest.

Marc McBride, a California attorney representing Blackhall, appeared in Superior Court Oct. 12 on behalf of Blackhall, according to a court spokeswoman. Blackhall was not required to appear at the Oct. 12 pretrial date.

The case is before Superior Court Judge Karen Robinson.

Via e-mail, McBride wrote that Blackhall, 50, "appears to be a genuinely kind individual who is an asset to both his community and family."

"Notwithstanding the accusations, I do not see any information that indicates to me that he is a threat to anyone nor does it appear that he has harmed anyone in the past," McBride said.

McBride said the charges against his client were initially misdemeanor charges, but under current California law, prosecutors can file the case in a way that requires Blackhall's personal appearance at all pretrial settlement conferences.

"Given the fact that the district attorney's office just finally released a complete set of police reports to my office, it is unlikely that his case would settle prior to the next court date, although Mr. Blackhall has been cooperative with the investigation since day one and is obviously eager to help his family, friends and community resume their normal lives," McBride said.

As his attorney, McBride said, he will "ensure that Mr. Blackhall is neither convicted nor punished in ways that are disproportionate to his actual conduct and that typically requires a rather lengthy court process."

Prior to his arrest, Blackhall was vice president of the Darby High School chapter of the Hilliard Music Boosters, which is a volunteer position for the Hilliard City Schools. Background checks are required for positions in which a volunteer is left alone with students, according to the school district's volunteer policy, which is linked to the music boosters' website.

District spokeswoman Amanda Morris said Blackhall's volunteer status was revoked Aug. 2, the same day district officials were informed of his arrest.

The music boosters club also severed its ties with Blackhall, according to Jeff Keller, president of the music boosters.

The boosters club is a separate organization from the district with its own policies and rules, Morris said, although they often work together.

As ThisWeekNEWS.com first reported Sept. 11, Blackhall was arrested July 25, near Newport Beach, Calif., according to the Orange County Sheriff's Office, for "possession/control of materials concerning a child under age 14."

"Law enforcement arrested the defendant on July 25 and during an investigation discovered more than 1,000 pictures, images and videos of young boys engaged in sexual conduct with other young boys," said Farrah Emami, spokeswoman for the Orange County District Attorney's Office.

Emami said while Blackhall was in California on a business trip, a co-worker alerted Orange County authorities that Blackhall had child pornography on a computer he had brought with him.

He was released on a $20,000 bond but not formally charged by the Orange County District Attorney's Office until the last week of August, Emami said. He was arraigned Sept. 10 in the Superior Court of California in Orange County, where he entered a plea of not guilty, she said.

The maximum penalty if Blackhall is convicted of the charges is three years in state prison.

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