CHRISTIANSBURG — A former Virginia Tech administrator and graduate student leader pleaded guilty Monday to child pornography charges, resolving a case that began with a technician’s attempt to maintain his university computer.
Matthew Yunho Chan, 34, pleaded guilty to 11 felony counts of possessing child pornography and was sentenced to 11 years in prison — but with the sentence to be suspended after he serves six months behind bars.
In a plea agreement accepted by Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Robert Turk, another 11 counts of possessing child pornography were dropped.
Chan will have to register as a sex offender and will be on supervised probation for 10 years after his release, Turk ordered. Conditions of Chan’s probation include no unsupervised contact with minors, undergoing a psychosexual evaluation, and abstaining from alcohol and drugs.
Summarizing the evidence that would have been presented if the case had gone to trial, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Sam Norman said that on Feb. 5, a university computer technician noticed there was no storage available on Chan’s laptop. The technician cleaned out the computer’s recycle bin, then looked for other items that were taking up memory. On the computer’s desktop, he found a folder of pornography and alerted higher-ups, Norman said.
Chan was the associate director of Tech’s Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology in the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science. A few years earlier, as a doctoral student, he had been president of Tech’s Graduate Student Assembly.
He also had a reputation as a classical musician, playing violin and percussion with community ensembles in Blacksburg and Bedford.
Chan no longer works at the university, a Tech spokesman said in June.
Norman described Chan’s supervisor confronting Chan about the technician’s discovery. As the supervisor questioned him, Chan began rapidly closing windows on his computer’s screen, then pushed the power button to force the machine to turn off, Norman said.
Tech officials took the laptop, which belonged to the university. Campus police examined it, then took it to the Christiansburg Police Department. There, Investigator Maureen McClanahan, an expert on child pornography cases, matched 22 images found on the computer to a national police database of pornographic images of minors, Norman said.
Chan said little during Monday’s hearing except to plead guilty and say that he understood the conditions of his sentence. Turk agreed to a request from defense attorney Rob Dean of Roanoke to let Chan report to jail Monday evening.