WASHINGTON -- A spokesman for the Homeland Security Department was put on unpaid leave yesterday after being charged with preying on a child online. Authorities say he had sexual conversations with an undercover detective who was posing as a 14-year-old girl.
Homeland Security officials said Brian J. Doyle, 55, the fourth-ranking spokesman at the department, was put on ''nonpay status" after the charges late Tuesday.
''The department is cooperating fully with the ongoing investigation into the allegations against Brian Doyle," said Homeland Security press secretary Russ Knocke. ''We take these allegations very seriously."
Knocke said Doyle's security clearance, employee badge, and facility access permissions have been suspended. The department's inspector general also is investigating the charges, which allege that Doyle disclosed his name and his employer and offered the numbers of his Homeland Security-issued office and cellphones during online conversations.
Doyle joined the federal government as a civil service employee in early 2002, ending a career with Time magazine to work at the Transportation Security Administration, said Laura Brown, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman. He joined Homeland Security's press operation last summer.
The charges, by the Polk County (Fla.) sheriff's department, accuse Doyle of finding the teenager's profile online, and allege that he began having sexually explicit conversations with her on the Internet on March 14.
Authorities said he sent her pornographic movie clips, as well as nonsexual photos of himself. One of the photos, released by the sheriff's office, shows Doyle in what appears to be Homeland Security headquarters. He is wearing a Homeland Security pin on his lapel and a lanyard that says ''TSA."
On several occasions, Doyle instructed her to perform a sexual act while thinking of him and described explicit activities he wanted to have with her, officials said.
Doyle appeared yesterday afternoon at a court hearing in suburban Maryland, where he lives. No bail was set, and he spoke only to answer routine questions, such as verifying his name. He was joined at the hearing by a woman that his lawyer, Barry Helfand, identified as Doyle's life partner of 15 years.
Helfand said he hopes Doyle will be given bond so he can turn himself in to authorities in Florida without the need for extradition.
Authorities arrested Doyle on Tuesday at his Silver Spring, Md., home as he was online with the undercover detective who posed as the girl. The detective had called Doyle at work and said she got a Web camera, as he had asked her to do, and wanted to test it out, said Carrie Rodgers, spokeswoman for the Polk County Sheriff's Office.
''He said he would get on the computer when he got home from work, so we knew he would be on," Rodgers said. ''When [police] went to his door, he was on the computer in the middle of a conversation with the girl."
He was booked into the Montgomery County Detention Center. Doyle also faces a charge of transmission of harmful material to a minor.