Federal sentencing scheduled for Feb. 18
Charles E. “Chuck” Hustis III, a former Cold Spring trustee and mayoral candidate who was charged last year with the attempted enticement of a minor for sex, on Nov. 19 pleaded guilty to a lesser charge — attempted receipt of child pornography — as part of a deal reached with federal prosecutors. But he still faces years in prison.
Hustis, 37, was arrested in December 2019 by FBI agents in the Foodtown parking lot in Cold Spring, where they alleged he was waiting to meet a 16-year-old for sex. According to an investigator’s report, Hustis also solicited explicit photos from the teen via Facebook Messenger.
The child pornography charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison for a defendant with no prior convictions, although in some circumstances prosecutors can ask for leniency. (Under federal sentencing guidelines, there is no distinction between the attempted or actual receipt of child pornography.) If Hustis had been convicted of the enticement charge, he faced a minimum sentence of 10 years.
Following his December arrest, Hustis was released on $150,000 bond and placed under home arrest with a monitoring device. The judge allowed Hustis to remain at his home under the same conditions until his sentencing, which is scheduled for Feb. 18. The government filed a forfeiture motion to keep his cellphone, which agents had seized.
Hustis, a 2002 Haldane graduate, served on the Village Board from 2010 to 2014 and also ran unsuccessfully for the Haldane school board in 2015. He challenged incumbent Mayor Dave Merandy last year.
According to the complaint filed with the court, the 16-year-old notified the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office after Hustis, over two days in December 2019, sent him sexually explicit photos and solicited him for sex. (The legal age of consent in New York State is 17.) The teen told police that, several years earlier, Hustis had been one of his substitute teachers at Haldane.
On Dec. 12, 2019, an FBI agent took over the teen’s Facebook account to communicate with Hustis while posing as the minor, according to the complaint. Hustis allegedly sent explicit photos to the account, as well as photos of his face, including one that also had been posted on his Facebook campaign page during his run for mayor.
It is inconceivable to me that Chuck Hustis — who is really the victim here — would be sentenced to any prison time or other punishment for his “crime” of sending suggestive Facebook posts to a local youth. I’m sure that all the “woke” Cold Spring liberals who’ve been commenting on the local social media groups are delighted.
My own view is that this is an absolute tragedy that probably wouldn’t have happened if Hustis had been able to afford top notch legal counsel.
We live in a time of turnstyle “justice” where, thanks to bail reform laws, murderers, rapists and actual criminals are either never arrested or let out of jail within 15 minutes of getting caught by the cops. Look no further than NYC to see how crime stats have spiked in the past year. And what about all those Black Lives Matter and Antifa riots? How many of those who assaulted and robbed people or burned down and/or looted small businesses were punished? Are you going to compare what Chuck Hustis did to what those glorified thugs got away with? Oh wait, I forgot, Chuck Hustis was born guilty. He’s a member of the privileged class, a white male.
Further, I wonder how many of those locals who are clamoring for Chuck to rot away his life in prison actually read any of the dumb comments he allegedly posted. Not only are they not remotely pornographic, but they wouldn’t even rate a PG compared to some of the programming on cable TV, Netflix, et al. Our culture has generally turned into a fetid cesspool which has defined deviancy way down. Check out the “Shameless” series, for example, where you can see every kind of sex imaginable including explicit scenes with minors that are no doubt a pedophile’s delight. Or how about “Cuties,” which would have been X-rated not too long ago.
Chuck Hustis is guilty of one thing — being a foolish young man who made a stupid mistake by acting out on social media. There is much, much worse to be found on every single platform including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, you name it. Chuck is no criminal, and the last thing he deserves is to go to prison. He has already been punished enough for what he did.
The criminal justice system is broken beyond repair and that includes the government officials including police, FBI, lawyers and judges who are responsible for this travesty.
Regardless of what one wants to call his “crime,” the fact is that in many ways Chuck Hustis is a victim in this sorry affair. He is not a hardened criminal/pedophile/stalker and does not deserve to do prison time for engaging in behavior that was not much different or more egregious than some of what can be seen on cable TV or cinema, even by 16-year-olds.
Further, look at the curriculum in our schools today when it comes to what used to be called “sex education.” I would not dare to publish some of what I have read and seen is being taught to young children these days, behavior that is the definition of “defining deviancy down” for many parents. Yet that is OK because it’s being done in the classroom.
Justice is not being served by further ruining Mr. Hustis’ life. I am sure he has learned a terrible lesson and I believe that he is no danger to society if he ever was one. There are plenty of real criminals in our midst (maybe not so much in Putnam) who have been punished far less than Chuck Hustis and who most likely got out of jail without so much as paying bail. This whole situation is a travesty and a tragedy.
I suggest reading the charge sheet in its entirety. What he was asking of this 16-year-old was never in any curriculum of any sex education class. In his post he even mentioned he knew he was breaking the law. He was at one time the teacher of the victim; this confirms him as a predator. He is no different than any other criminal, he committed many more crimes in addition to what he pleaded to. He is in no way a victim.