A Westport man who once worked as a policeman in Little Compton, Westport and other places has been sentenced to three years probation for possession of child pornography in connection with the secret filming of a young relative.
Christopher Branco, 44, of 9 Mourning Dove Drive, Westport, pleaded guilty last Tuesday in Fall River District Court before Judge Kevin Finnerty. He must now register as a sex offender, wear a GPS monitoring device and stay away from the victim, according to the Bristol County District Attorney’s office.
The crime came to light in March of 2012 at a time when Mr. Branco and his wife were in the process of getting a divorce. She told Westport Police that she was looking for papers inside a safe in their bedroom closet but instead found a tube sock in the safe filled with women’s underwear of varying sizes and an 8mm videotape.
She put the tape in their video camera and saw images of a 15-year-old girl, a relative, using the toilet in the bathroom of their house. Elsewhere on the video — about nine minutes worth — was footage of Mr. Branco in the act of setting up the camera in the bathroom closet and aiming it toward the toilet.
She notified Westport Police who seized the tape and camera and summonsed Mr. Branco to headquarters.
Detective Sergeant Antonio Cestodio said that, after consulting with the Bristol County District Attorney’s office, they learned they could not charge Mr. Branco with secretly filming a partially nude person, a misdemeanor.
“Because the actual filming had taken place a while ago (2000), we were informed that the statute of limitations had run out,” he said. The District Attorney’s office instead pursued the felony charge of possession of child pornography. “Since he was still in possession of the tape,” the statute of limitations was not an issue for that charge.
At the time he was charged, Mr. Branco was working as a police officer at Bristol Community College’s Fall River campus, a job from which he was subsequently fired.
His law enforcement career got its start in Westport where he worked as a part-time special police officer for two months — essentially a back-up for police-related work that regular officers could not handle.
He later went to work as a police officer in Newport and then transferred to Little Compton
Little Compton Police Chief Sidney Wordell said that officer Branco was hired in August 2006 and worked as a policeman in that town until January 2011, apparently to take work closer to his Westport home.
“We never had any indication of problems,” Chief Wordell said. “He was a good officer here — no complaints.”