Former WSUV instructor faces child porn charges

By Paris Achen and Emily Gillespie

Published:

Updated: April 10, 2013, 6:29 PM

 
photoTaj Mahon-Haft

A former Washington State University Vancouver instructor has been held without bail in Virginia on charges he produced and possessed multiple images of child pornography.

Taj Mahon-Haft, 34, who most recently was an assistant professor of criminal justice at Radford University in Radford, Va., was arrested three times in March, first, for possessing synthetic drugs and marijuana, and then for possession of child pornography. His final arrest ended with additional child pornography charges, as well as charges of obstructing justice, resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer, authorities said.

The Roanoke Times reported that Mahon-Haft appeared April 4 in Radford Circuit Court with two black eyes, apparently from his confrontation with police.

He was denied bail and is being held at the New River Valley Regional Jail, said Radford City police Lt. Andy Wilburn.

Mahon-Haft became the focus of a criminal investigation in December when one of his neighbors called police to respond to a possible burglary at his home while he was out of town, The Roanoke Times reported. An officer who responded found an open door at the residence, entered the house and found drugs inside.

Police obtained a search warrant and seized his computers on Dec. 22 as part of the drug investigation, Wilburn said. They were searching for information about where Mahon-Haft obtained ingredients for “bath salts,” a synthetic drug with effects similar to amphetamine or cocaine, Wilburn said.

Mahon-Haft was arrested March 8 on the drug charges, then was released after posting $10,000 bond, according to a Radford police news release.

While executing additional search warrants to examine the professor’s computers, investigators found images of child pornography. They then obtained another search warrant to seize and examine a laptop belonging to Radford University, where they found more child pornography.

The images were downloaded while Mahon-Haft was out on bond related to the drug charges, the news release said.

When police arrested Mahon-Haft on March 21, he allegedly resisted and assaulted an officer. Police had to shoot him with a Taser to take him into custody, Wilburn said.

Mahon-Haft was charged March 21 with 24 new counts of possession of child pornography, nine counts of production of child pornography, assault on a police officer, obstruction of justice and resisting arrest. The case remains under investigation.

The former Vancouver resident owns a home in Radford and lives with his fiancée, Leah Gose, according to The Roanoke Times.

He has been suspended from the Radford campus and any university satellite facilities, the newspaper reported.

He earned his doctorate in sociology in 2011 from WSU and taught in both Vancouver and Pullman, said Brenda Alling, a WSU Vancouver spokeswoman.

He received the Joseph DeMartini Excellence in Teaching Award in 2010 from the WSU Department of Sociology, Alling said.

His research focused on criminology, drugs and drug policy, research methods, culture, sociology of science and mental health, she said.

He is co-author of “Drugs and Drug Policy: The Control of Consciousness Alteration.”

He also helped in a program and policy evaluation of alternative sentencing in Clark County’s Drug Court, according to an author biography on the Barnes & Noble website.

His students described him on RateMyProfessor.com as “liberal-pushing” and a former actor who “knows how to play a room.” He received an overall rating of 4.3 out of 5 on the website and a chili pepper symbol for “hotness.”

He divorced his wife in December 2009 in Clark County, according to The Columbian’s archives. They had a son in 2005.