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Radnor commissioners president Philip Ahr charged in child porn case

The 66-year-old Bryn Mawr man allegedly possessed and distributed images of infants and toddlers being abused. Radnor Township officials have asked Ahr to resign.

Radnor Township Commissioner Phil Ahr arrives for his arraignment in District Court, Newtown Square, PA on Wednesday October 11, 2017. Aha is charged with  numerous counts of child pornography possession and distribution.
Radnor Township Commissioner Phil Ahr arrives for his arraignment in District Court, Newtown Square, PA on Wednesday October 11, 2017. Aha is charged with numerous counts of child pornography possession and distribution.Read moreDAVID SWANSON / Staff Photograph

To all appearances, the balding and bespectacled Philip Ahr was a typical husband and father of two.

His resumé is robust: Graduate of the University of Notre Dame, former Navy hospital corpsman, a leader in his Bryn Mawr Catholic parish, and Radnor Township commissioners president. A successful marketing director, he has lived in the affluent Main Line community for 22 years.

But online, authorities said, Ahr led a double life.

Sometimes using the username "Daddy X" or "Daddy XX," Ahr allegedly sent and distributed images of infants and toddlers being abused by adults. Authorities said Ahr also attempted to hide more than a thousand links to pornographic images in multiple Excel spreadsheets on two computers.

The 66-year-old Ahr was charged Wednesday with child pornography possession and distribution dating to 2013, as well as criminal use of communication facility and child sexual abuse. All four counts are felonies, and Delaware County District Attorney John J. Whelan said that if convicted, Ahr could face "significant time" in jail.

Under Pennsylvania law, child porn charges are considered sexual abuse of children offenses, but there is no indication that Ahr had any actual contact with minors.

The details of the charges left officials in Delaware County disturbed.

"Whether you're a commissioner or a plumber, I could never understand people that deal in child pornography," Whelan said. "It is disgusting. … Most people, you shudder with anguish when you look and you hear about that."

"I am shocked, saddened, sickened, and angered," Radnor Township Manager Robert Zienkowski said.

Ahr remained board president as of Wednesday evening, but vice president Elaine Schaefer said she had formally asked for his resignation earlier in the day. Under the board charter, no member can be removed unless he or she is convicted of a crime, officials said.

The investigation into Ahr's online activity is ongoing, according to Whelan, and additional subpoenas remain outstanding. Whelan said he could not comment on whether any children in the images were from the Philadelphia area.

After surrendering Wednesday morning, Ahr was arraigned before District Judge David H. Lang in a small courtroom in Newtown Square. He posted 10 percent of $100,000 bail and was released under the condition that he have no contact with minors.

Wearing a blue button-down shirt and dark dress pants, Ahr arrived shackled and flanked by detectives. Inside the courtroom, he stared ahead blankly as he waited for the judge to arrive. He appeared calm during the brief proceeding.

No family members of Ahr's appeared to be present.

After posting bail, he left court with his attorney, Mark Much.  Much and Ahr declined to answer reporters' questions.

Much said he had not read the criminal complaint, which in explicit detail recounts Ahr's alleged online behavior and the manner in which he and other users discussed child pornography in illicit chat rooms.

Ahr, who had not responded to multiple previous requests for comment via phone and at his gray stucco home, has been under criminal investigation since last month.

The details of that investigation had been kept under wraps until Wednesday.

It began on Aug. 31 with a "cyber tip" the District Attorney's Office received from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Whelan said. Someone in the area, who had not yet been identified as Ahr, had uploaded and shared suspected child pornography via Yahoo Messenger, authorities said.

More than two weeks later, Verizon, in response to a subpoena, identified Ahr as the subscriber of the IP address in question, authorities said.

Authorities began their investigation and obtained a search warrant for Ahr's home.

When detectives arrived there on Sept. 21, Ahr seemed shocked to see them, Whelan said.

Ahr took the officers to the basement, authorities said, where he had a desk with both a laptop and a desktop computer.

He allegedly told detectives that he had been "sexting" with unknown people online via Yahoo Messenger, and that those conversations were sometimes about children, authorities said.

He allegedly admitted to sending and receiving images from someone with whom he was chatting, saying, "Obviously I knew the images were illegal and don't know how I could say otherwise," according to authorities.

A search of both hard drives took a couple weeks and uncovered more than 500 illegal images involving children shared and sought by Ahr since 2013, authorities said. There were also altered spreadsheets, which at first appeared to be just for data-keeping purposes.

However, upon investigation, detectives said they found more than a thousand website addresses that linked to pornography, about half of which included child abuse involving girls under age 10, as well as infants and toddlers. Authorities also said they found images and videos involving sadomasochistic sexual abuse, as well as abuse involving animals and children.

There was an indication that Ahr may have deleted some information from his computers, Whelan said, and detectives were attempting to retrieve the deleted materials.

Whelan said Ahr had not provided authorities with any explanation or expressed remorse.

"I believe the only regret is being caught," Whelan said.

Ahr, a Democrat who represents Ward 7, which encompasses part of Bryn Mawr, has been a commissioner since January 2016, and became president three months later in a 4-3 vote on party lines.

Ahr's arrest comes four months after former Radnor Commissioner Bill Spingler, 75, of Paoli, was found guilty of assault on a person with a mental disability after touching the breast of a 103-year-old woman, whom he said was his mother-in-law, during visits to her Wayne nursing home.

Whelan said any board history did not affect the way in which authorities investigated this case.

But "I think it creates an aggravating situation when you let your constituents down," Whelan said.

Radnor Police Superintendent William Colarulo called it "a trying time for the residents of Radnor Township."

Zienkowski said that no area children had been endangered by Ahr, but said police had increased patrols in the area around Ahr's home since the investigation got underway.

"It is important to remember this is not about our township," Schaefer said. "This is about one man, one individual, and his personal behavior, which, if true, is shocking and horrifying."

If Ahr does not resign from the board by the week's end, Schaefer, a Democrat acting as president in Ahr's absence, said she would hold an emergency meeting to reorganize the board and fill the president position.

At a meeting Monday, the board voted to remove Ahr as president as the investigation continued and Ahr was again absent.

After the District Attorney's Office announced the investigation, Ahr did not attend a Sept. 25 commissioners meeting and was also not there on Monday.

At that most recent meeting, Commissioner Richard Booker, a Republican, said he had motioned to remove Ahr as president, but "Elaine [Schaefer] and the other Democrat commissioners did vote against my motion."

Schaefer rolled her eyes at the notion that she voted against it because of party politics.

"I did not vote for the removal on Monday because there had been no charge," Schaefer said. "And we had no information about this because it was a sealed warrant."

After the details of the investigation were released, however, "it became very clear what the right thing to do here was," Schaefer said.

Luke Clark, a Republican commissioner, said he felt that he had gotten to know Ahr over breakfast meetings during which they discussed policy. Ahr was well-liked by board members and easy to get along with, Clark said.

"Completely shocked," Clark said. "There weren't many people who had anything bad to say about him."

Zienkowski said residents in Ahr's Seventh Ward could contact Schaefer or his office with any concerns.

Before joining the Radnor board, Ahr had been active in the township's Garrett Hill neighborhood, serving on the Garrett Hill Coalition, the Garrett Hill-Rosemont Fourth of July Parade Committee, and the Garrett Hill Steering Committee.

Ahr graduated from Notre Dame with a degree in management. He is married, his sons are grown, and he works as a marketing director at Progressive Business Publications in Malvern.

He was also parish council president at Our Mother of Good Counsel in Bryn Mawr, according to his biography on the township website. That biography has been removed.

Radnor police said he had no criminal record.