A man who composed music for "Sesame Street" and the Disney Channel and who started a jazz program for students at Porter-Gaud School appeared in federal court Monday, accused of making and sending child pornography.
Fernando Rivas, 59, wore a tan jacket and glasses and entered a not-guilty plea on the charges of production, transportation and possession of child pornography. A judge set his bond at $300,000, and he posted the 10 percent required for release immediately following the hearing.
Rivas' resume lists ties to Gloria Estefan, Cyndi Lauper, Darius Rucker of Hootie and the Blowfish and the Charleston Symphony Orchestra. In 2006, Disney hired him to compose the music for "Handy Manny," a children's animated TV program about a bilingual handyman and his talking tools.
The accusations against him stem from someone else's arrest in New Jersey on charges of possession of child pornography, according to a North Charleston police report. Local officers helped FBI agents with a search warrant of Rivas' home on Falling Embers Lane on April 19.
There, according to court records, investigators found photographs of a 4-year-old girl naked and "restrained in handcuffs and other bondage-type devices." Records from that search say investigators read Rivas his rights and that he admitted to taking the photographs and using handcuffs to restrain the girl.
The records say Rivas also admitted to sending the pictures to two other people by email.
Rivas, whose mother fled Fidel Castro-governed Cuba with her son when he was 9, grew up in Miami. He graduated from the prestigious Juilliard School in New York and went on to compose music for 27 years in the city, specializing in the Hispanic market.
He wrote songs for "Sesame Street" and advertising jingles for major corporations. He also composed "Selena, Forever," a stage musical tribute to the young Mexican-American singer murdered in 1995.
Rivas first communicated with his future wife, a Charleston native, through a writers' critique club, he told The Post and Courier in 2003. They maintained a long-distance courtship until he moved here in 1998.
He launched a jazz program at Porter-Gaud, where he taught in the Upper School from 2002 to 2009, Porter-Gaud officials say. They released a statement Monday saying Rivas resigned "due to increasing work outside of his school obligations."
"We are unaware of any connection between the charges against him and Porter-Gaud, but we are cooperating with law enforcement in their investigation," the statement said.
Rivas completed the score for a documentary about the 200-year history of The Post and Courier in 2003 and arranged songs for the Charleston Symphony Orchestra.
Reached after the arraignment hearing, Rivas' attorney David McCann declined to comment on the charges against his client. Asked if the two people who allegedly received pornographic images face charges, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said the investigation continues.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Bristow Marchant set terms for Rivas' bond, including home detention with electronic monitoring, no Internet access and no interaction with children without an adult present who knows the charges against him.
Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594.