Former Holyoke kindergarten teacher gets six years for child porn

Staff Writer
Published: 9/20/2020 8:10:00 PM

HOLYOKE — Gregory Lisby, a former kindergarten teacher in the city who pleaded guilty earlier this year to possessing child pornography, was sentenced in federal court Friday to six years in prison.

Lisby, 41, of Worcester, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Worcester by Judge Timothy S. Hillman to six years in prison and five years of supervised release. He had pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography in February, according to a statement released by the state U.S. attorney’s office.

Lisby was arrested and charged on Sept. 13, 2019, and had resigned the day before from his position as a kindergarten teacher for the Holyoke Public Schools, prosecutors said.

According to a Gazette article from the time, then-Superintendent Stephen Zrike had sent a letter to families of the Morgan Elementary School stating that Lisby had resigned after the district learned that the FBI was investigating him for possession of child pornography. Lisby had started working for the school district in August.

According to an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Adam Strode that was filed in court, Microsoft had alerted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in December 2018 to a file uploaded to an account on its file hosting service that contained child pornography. In response to a federal search warrant on Aug. 27, Microsoft handed over the contents of that account to investigators, who found approximately 180 images and 15 videos that appeared to depict child pornography, Strode wrote.

Account data provided to law enforcement by Microsoft listed the subscriber name as “’Greg Lisby,’” according to Strode. The account’s IP address was traced to 919 Pleasant St. in Worcester, which according to a report by The Telegram & Gazette in Worcester from the time, is the rectory of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in the city. According to Strode, Lisby and his husband, the Rev. Timothy Burger — who is the rector of St. Luke’s, according to the church’s website — had both lived at the address. Lisby was arrested after law enforcement officers searched his home.

According to reporting on Lisby’s Friday sentencing by The Telegram & Gazette, Lisby had been a rector at All Saints Episcopal Curch in Worcester until he was removed from this post in 2018; he has since been defrocked.

The Telegram & Gazette in February reported that the Rev. Douglas J. Fisher — the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts — had written a letter to the congregation alleging that the diocese found “devastating credible evidence” that Lisby sexually abused a teenager “after he was ordained as a priest in 2007.” The newspaper also reported that Fisher wrote in his letter that Burger, Lisby’s husband, is “in no way implicated in any of these charges” and had filed for divorce from Lisby.

During Lisby’s sentencing, it was disclosed that he had sexual contact with a 16-year-old boy, according to The Telegram & Gazette, but was not charged because 16 is the age of consent, according to a prosecutor cited by the newspaper.

In a sentencing memo filed in court, Lisby’s attorney, Timothy G. Watkins of Boston, asked the court to sentence Lisby to two years in prison and five years of supervised release. Watkins wrote that people close to Lisby have described him as “kind, gentle and compassionate,” but he wrote that “a dark curiosity spurred by depression at an especially low point in his life briefly sent him into the dank corners of the internet, and he now stands convicted of possessing child pornography.”

“In sum, all empirical evidence in combination with Lisby’s history, circumstances, and age, point to his future law-abidingness,” Watkins wrote. “A sentence of two years for Lisby, after which he will be released on conditions … for an additional five years, reflects the seriousness of the offense, provides just punishment, and provides appropriate general and specific deterrence.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristen Noto prosecuted the case.

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com.


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