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Principal posed as girl online, police say

July 04, 2008|Victoria Kim | Times Staff Writer

A Los Angeles school principal who has been charged with possessing child pornography had posed as a 12-year-old girl in an online chat room and engaged in sexually explicit talk, authorities said Thursday.

Randolph Barnett Cornfield, 60, principal of Del Rey Continuation School in Westchester, was arrested in June when investigators allegedly found images of child pornography on his home computer.

Los Angeles police investigated Cornfield, a 28-year veteran of the Los Angeles Unified School District, after a man reported meeting a 12-year-old girl in an online chat room who made "very crude, sexually graphic statements," said Deputy Dist. Atty. Marc Beaart of the district attorney's High Technology Crimes Division.

"We were concerned initially because, geez, there's a 12-year-old out there that's being sexualized and possibly molested, and trolling for adult male partners," Beaart said.

But when they looked for the person behind the screen name, investigators said, they discovered it was Cornfield. Police said they found child pornography on Cornfield's home computer and other digital media, leading to his arrest.

Cornfield has been charged with two counts of possession of child pornography. Posing as a young girl online is not a criminal act, officials said, adding that there is no evidence to indicate that Cornfield abused any minors.

"Anyone that collects child pornography is a concern because it creates a demand for children to be exploited," Beaart said. "It's especially a concern when that person has a job dealing with children."

Cornfield worked with students ranging in age from 14 to 18 at Del Rey, a continuation school that provides a smaller and more personalized environment for students considered at risk of not completing their education, said district spokeswoman Monica Carazo.

Reached at his Playa del Rey home, Cornfield declined to comment. If convicted, he could face a maximum of three years and eight months in state prison and would have to register as a sex offender.

His arraignment, initially set for Thursday, was postponed until July 24. Cornfield is free on $20,000 bail.

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victoria.kim@latimes.com

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