Fired UT Foundation chief has record as child molester

Fired UT Foundation chief has record as child molester

June 4th, 2013 by The Knoxville News Sentinel in Local Regional News

Bruce Downsbrough

Photo by WRCB-TV Channel 3 /Times Free Press.

After molesting at least five boys, a former University of Tennessee Foundation chief devised a new plan to satisfy his urges - look but don't touch, testimony Monday showed.

Knoxville Police Department Investigator Tom Evans testified in U.S. District Court on Monday that former UT Foundation Chief Operating Officer Bruce O. Downsbrough turned to child pornography as a means of sexual gratification after he was charged in Boulder, Colo., in 1986 with molesting two boys and got away with molesting three others.

"He stated he used child pornography as a means to not go out and contact offend," Evans told U.S. Magistrate Judge Clifford Shirley.

Downsbrough, 60, was indicted last week on three charges of receiving child pornography through the mail and over the Internet and one count of being in possession of more than 20,000 images and several videotapes of child pornography. The UT Foundation fired Downsbrough a day after his arrest at his foundation office.

Downsbrough's attorney, Phil Lomonaco, sought Monday to persuade Shirley to allow Downsbrough to go free pending trial. But Shirley refused, noting that Downsbrough would be barred from using a computer or the Internet as a condition of his freedom.

"The testimony in this case is unrebutted that the defendant uses child pornography to keep him from [committing] contact offenses," Shirley said. "Obviously, if I were to release him that would involve taking away his access to child pornography. In that case, I would be concerned that fact alone would escalate the risk for contact offenses."

U.S. Probation Officer Ava Wilson testified Monday that Downsbrough pleaded guilty in Boulder, Colo., to sexual assault on a child and sexual assault in the third degree, a case that involved two young boys. In one case, Downsbrough was granted a two-year deferment, which is the equivalent in Tennessee of judicial diversion, in which the charge is dropped if the defendant obeys the law during the deferment period, records show. In the second case, he was sentenced to two years on probation.

Evans testified Downsbrough said he paid a total of $3,500 for counseling for the two victims.

In an interview at his UT Foundation office after a November raid of his home, Downsbrough told Evans he had molested three other boys in his past, crimes that apparently went undetected.

Downsbrough was hired at UT in 2003, a time when the university did not do criminal background checks for employees who did not have contact with students or handle money. Checks on administrative personnel were done only to verify degrees and references, said Tiffany Carpenter, a UT Foundation spokeswoman.

That policy was changed in 2011 after a new director took over the human resources department and made the recommendation to implement comprehensive checks on all employees. UT Police learned about the investigation of Downsbrough in November, but administrators at the foundation did not know about the probe until Downsbrough's arrest, Carpenter said.

Downbrough, who graduated from the University of Colorado in 1978, practiced as a lawyer there and was placed on disability inactive status by the Colorado Supreme Court on March 2, 1988, said Jim Coyle, head of the Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel. Downsbrough has never sought to reactivate his attorney license, Coyle said.

Coyle said he could not release the underlying cause for the disability status because the proceedings are confidential. However, the timing correlates with his guilty pleas in the two child molestation cases cited at Monday's hearing.

Downsbrough, a current member of the Knoxville Chorale Society, worked at the American Boychoir School as a vice president over development in 2001 and 2002, but Evans testified Downsbrough was fired from that job after school administrators learned of his molestation convictions.

Downsbrough became the target of a federal probe after investigators with the U.S. Postal Service discovered he had been receiving child pornography via the mail and Internet from at least two websites.

Investigators with the Postal Service contacted the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force of which Evans is a 13-year veteran and a search warrant for Downsbrough's home was obtained, testimony showed.

Evans said a forensic examination of Downsbrough's laptop computer and an external hard drive showed Downsbrough was meticulous in his handling of his cache of child pornography.

He placed images in separate files delineated by the ages of the children depicted, Evans said. Images of babies and toddlers went into files labeled prepubescent and pubescent, he said. Downsbrough labeled a file of images showing young boys as "wispies," he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Morris argued at Monday's hearing that Downsbrough not only represented a danger to the community should he be freed but also appeared likely to flee. Downsbrough himself admitted having $1.5 million in "liquid assets" as well as a home in Colorado valued at $750,000, and one week before he was indicted applied for a passport to replace the one authorities seized during the November raid.

Lomonaco countered his client has known since November he likely would be indicted but made no attempt to run.

Shirley, too, questioned the delay between the November raid and his indictment, but Evans explained ICAC has a six-month backlog of computer forensic examinations.

Staff writer Megan Boehnke contributed to this story.

Contact Jamie Satterfield at or 865-342-6308.