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R.I. health department official arrested on child porn charges helped compile state’s adolescent sexual health report

Jeffrey Hill, a youth project director who was arrested on child pornography and child erotica charges this week, used the same email for personal and work purposes, Rhode Island State Police said, and had been among those to make recommendations to the state on how to improve sexual health and care access for minors

PROVIDENCE — The Rhode Island health department official who was arrested for child pornography charges this week had helped put together the state’s first adolescent sexual health report, including recommendations on improving sexual health and care access for minors across the state, a Globe Rhode Island investigation has found.

Jeffrey Hill, 46, of South Kingstown, was arrested by the Rhode Island State Police on Monday night and was charged with one count each of possession of child pornography, a felony, and child erotica, which is considered a misdemeanor in Rhode Island. Hill was the state health department’s health program administrator of the violence injury prevention program since fall of 2016 and youth suicide prevention coordinator for the state since February 2013. According to state payroll records, Hill earned $92,518.92 in Fiscal Year 2022.

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Hill is now on administrative leave, but according to internal reports from the state health department, he was also a member of the Rhode Island Adolescent Sexual Health Task Force. The task force’s first adolescent sexual health report, published in December 2016, described the landscape of sexual health among adolescents in Rhode Island at the time and included sections about unexpected pregnancies among teen girls, sexually transmitted diseases, and sexual orientation.

Jeffrey Hill, a Rhode Island state health official who works in youth preventative harm programs, was arrested and charged this week with one count each of possession with child pornography and child erotica.Rhode Island State Police

Hill’s contribution to the report is unclear. When asked Wednesday how often Hill interacted with youth and adolescents in his position at the state health department, Annemarie Beardsworth, a spokeswoman for the health department, told the Globe in an email that it was a human resources matter. “Because this involves a pending legal and HR matter, we cannot comment any further,” she wrote.

According to an August 2020 Facebook post by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Rhode Island Chapter, Hill was responsible for programs related to rape prevention and education, core violence and injury prevention, mental health awareness training programs, and “all the SAMHSA, ACL, and CDC- funded programs for Youth Suicide Prevention.”

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A screenshot of an August 2020 Facebook post by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Rhode Island described state health department employee Jeffrey Hill as responsible for certain programs for Youth Suicide Prevention, Rape Prevention and Education, and other programs.Screenshot from Facebook

Hill is also listed as an author for Rhode Island Medical Journal research articles, including a May 2018 article that links public schools and community mental health services as a model. On the health department’s website, he’s listed in acknowledgements and author credits for several studies, annual reports, meeting minutes, strategic plans, emails that are public from the R.I. Higher Education Suicide Prevention Advisory Group, and other documents that date back to 2013.

Former colleagues told the Globe that Hill was a “middle to senior” management employee who often shared tips about the best places to bring kids and local family-friendly events. “That feels gross now,” said one former colleague who is a parent, who asked that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak about the case.

Hill could not be reached for comment on Wednesday. An email sent to his health department address was returned with an out-of-office message that said he would not have access to email “while away.”

Rhode Island State Police Corporal Luke Schatz said in his arrest report, which was obtained by the Globe Wednesday, that the Yahoo email address Hill used to send child pornography and child erotica to himself was “created and used for personal and work-related correspondence.”

A Google search shows the same email address listed as part of Hill’s contact information for a pickleball league with South Kingstown Parks and Recreation, as well as his contact as the chapter leader of Lambda Chi Alpha’s alumni network at the University of Rhode Island.

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Schatz said he first received a tip about Hill’s activities from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), a national nonprofit that provides services to families and works to prevent abduction and sexual exploitation of children. NCMEC told Schatz security personnel at Yahoo Inc. reported that on March 28, an individual using the Yahoo email account uploaded 40 files and then emailed it to themselves using the same address.

Schatz reviewed the files, and said that “all 40 files were consistent with the definition of child pornography and child erotica” under Rhode Island State Law.

The files are in custody of the Rhode Island Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and are available for prosecutorial purposes. But in the arrest report, Schatz provided descriptions of the images, noting that one depicted “a pubescent female,” nude from the waist down, with her legs in the air and her genitals exposed “in a graphic and lascivious manner.”

The focal point of the image, the corporal said, was the prepubescent female’s vagina.

Another file showed a prepubescent female lying on her back wearing only underwear and a necktie, with her legs spread and her chest exposed, wrote Schatz.

Hill allegedly also accessed this Yahoo email at an IP address that is assigned to the Pond View Racquet Club, a family owned recreational club in Westerly, R.I. “How disturbing,” Sage Shanley, co-owner of the club, told the Globe via email. She speculated that he logged on to the club’s WiFi, which is open to members, while attending one of his teenage son’s matches. His son played in the Club’s winter league.

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A search and arrest warrant was signed by Associate Judge James Caruolo for Hill’s home on Monday. When the state police task force arrived, Hill was at home with his wife and their 14-year-old son. A cellphone and two hard drives were confiscated.

Hill was arraigned Tuesday and released on a $5,000 bail. A Washington County District Court judge ordered Hill to use the internet only for “business purposes,” and to not have any unsupervised contact with children under the age of 18.

It’s unclear whether Hill will continue to be employed by the state.

The Rhode Island Adolescent Sexual Health Task Force report Hill contributed to also made recommendations to policy makers regarding adolescent sexual health, including improving school environments to support health curricula, engaging parents and community partners to “help improve the overall sexual health of adolescents,” working with health care providers to improve “adolescent-friendly health care” in order to increase utilization of preventative services, and proposing state policies and laws to reduce barriers and improve access to sexual health-related services for adolescents.

Hill will have another court hearing on Sept. 9. He could face up to six years in prison and a $6,000 fine.

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Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.