A federal magistrate judge has revoked bail and "home detention" for Eric Tran Thai of Dorchester, saying she is convinced he poses too much of a risk of re-offending - or of fleeing the area - and ordered him held behind bars pending the outcome of his trial on five counts of sexual exploitation of children.
Thai was arrested earlier this month after federal investigators, who'd had their eye on him for more than a year, found what they said were 45 videos, made between February and June, 2017, of Boston Latin School boys in varying degrees of undress in restrooms there.
Investigators say they found the videos on computers in his Dorchester condo, for which they'd obtained a search warrant, as part of an investigation that began when Thai was arrested on state misdemeanor charges for allegedly videoing two men in a restroom at Boston College. They are still going through roughly 20 terabytes of files, which they say date back 20 years.
A clerk in US District Court in Boston had set bail for Thai at $10,000 at his arraignment on March 11, and said he could await trial at home, in an order that allowed him to go to work, visit his parents, a counselor and his lawyer, but which ordered him to stay away from Boston Latin in particular and other places where teens might congregate in general.
But in an order released today, following a March 19 hearing on bail, Magistrate Judge M. Page Kelley said the magnitude of the federal charges against Thai - he faces a minimum of 15 years in prison if convicted - coupled with a history of extensive foreign travel and the fact that he has enough savings to support himself while working just eight hours a week at $15 an hour makes him a flight risk.
And, Kelley wrote, the fact that he is charged with repeatedly videoing underage students and that the previous "home detention" order would have let him spend a large amount of time outside his home means he poses a high enough risk of doing more videoing.that he would pose a danger to the community.
"[T]he danger posed by Thai's release is substantial: given the nature of the charged conduct, Thai apparently is a risk-taker and has repeatedly engaged in serious criminal conduct consisting of surreptitious acts during which he easily could have been discovered. Further, the government stated that the supervision he was on as a result of the state court charges was "minimal," so the court questions whether one can be sure he was not reoffending while on release."
Kelley rejected a request from Thai's attorney - which prosecutors appeared to be amenable to - to change his release condition to home incarceration, which would require him to essentially be locked up at home for 24 hours a day, save for meetings with his lawyer:
"The court does not consider 24-hour lockdown in his home to be a viable option for Thai. He lives alone. He would not be able to be employed. Prior to the first detention hearing, he was apparently undergoing therapy for long stretches of time every week outside his home, and he would not be able to continue this regimen if he was confined in his home. The court considers it to be mandatory that, given the type of conduct alleged here and the particular type of therapy in which Thai already was engaged, he receive individual counseling, and he could not do that if he was incarcerated in his home. Further, given the factors cited above, Thai does pose a serious risk of flight, and his spending a long period of time, perhaps years, locked in his home would only increase that risk."