Dorchester man gets 12 years for videoing Boston Latin School students from stalls in boys' rooms there

A federal judge last week sentenced Eric Tran Thai, 39, to 12 years in federal prison and 5 years of probation for his guilty plea to charges of two counts of possession of child pornography.

Thai admitted in January that he somehow managed to get into Boston Latin School at least ten times in 2017, and would station himself in a stall in a boy's restroom and then video students either in adjacent stalls or at urinals. In total, he made 45 videos, authorities say.

Prosecutors had asked US District Court Judge William Young to sentence Thai to at least 15 years. In a sentencing memorandum, assistant US Attorney Anne Paruti wrote:

"This case is more than a “child pornography” case, as the defendant appears to characterize it. Here, the defendant snuck into the Boston Latin School on multiple occasions over a series of months. He did so with one purpose: to film boys at the school at their most vulnerable – in the bathroom. He did so without their knowledge and without their consent. Having graduated from the school himself years earlier, he knew the layout and timed his surreptitious operations to maximize the likelihood that he would be able to slip in unnoticed – around dismissal time, as most kids were leaving the building for the day. On no fewer than 10 occasions, he hid in the boys’ bathroom, set up his recording equipment, and ultimately was able to produce at least 30 unique videos2 of unsuspecting students in situations that they had no reason to believe would be anything but private. Four of the boys, ranging in age from 12 to 17, were ultimately identified. The defendant was indicted for the sexual exploitation of those four boys; in the interest of plea negotiations, the government has agreed to dismiss those counts – each of which carries a 15 year mandatory minimum sentence – in exchange for the defendant’s pre-litigation plea to charges that will not subject him to that mandatory minimum. "

Thai's attorney wrote a sentencing memorandum, but Young agreed to seal the document - along with the request to have it not made public.

Paruti added her office agreed to a plea deal to spare victims from having to testify in court.

"The government appreciates that the defendant has committed himself, post-arrest, to treatment, and expects that it should and will be a part of his life for years to come. That motivation does not, however, sufficiently mitigate the need for a lengthy sentence as punishment for the reprehensible conduct at issue here; regardless of what led the defendant to capitalize on the vulnerability of the victims in this case, the effect on those victims is the same: disbelief, trauma, fear, hypersensitivity, and an overwhelming feeling of violation. This is a predictable reaction to being filmed by a stranger in a place that is, for many families, a nurturing environment designed to foster their children’s intellectual and individual growth."

Thai faces separate charges in state court for the alleged incidents that brought him to the attention of authorities, involving two students at Boston College who say they discovered Thai was in a restroom there, videoing them.