TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - A former Washington Local School teacher and coach pled not guilty today after police say he initiated sexting relationships with three teenage students.
A Lucas County grand jury indicted Matthew Warner, 26, this week on seven felony charged including importuning, illegal use of a minor in nudity oriented material and tampering with evidence. If found guilty, the husband and father of a six month old could face up to 11 years behind bars.
"It started as posing as an innocent conversation and one thing led to another and it turned into something more explicit," said Frank Spryszak, assistant Lucas County prosecutor, about the case.
According to the district, Warner was hired in July of 2008. He taught industrial technology at Jefferson Junior High School and coached track at Whitmere High School.
Prosecutors say the two 15-year-old victims and one 17-year-old victim were either in his class or on his track team.
Toledo police say another student found out about the sexting and told a teacher. They received a complaint from the district and started their investigation against Warner in April of this year.
"I can't say that he did it intentionally to try to groom them but he did gain their confidence as a teacher and track coach, " said Sgt. Tim Campbell with the sex crimes division.
According to police, Warner took the numbers of those on his track team to inform them of practice times. For the victims, they say his text messages became regular and led to conversations regarding personal relationships, sexual favors and the request for nude photos.
Police say all three of the girls sent nude or inappropriate pictures of themselves through text message. They say Warner also sent them nude photos of himself back. Prosecutors say 60 explicit text messages had been sent between Warner and the victims and one of the sexting relationships had gone back a full year.
"It could escalate to more but in this case we have not found that it did escalate to more," Sgt. Campbell said.
When the allegations surfaced, officials with the district said Warner resigned. The judge ordered him to have no contact with his victims. He is out on bond on a monitored O.R. bond. His next court date is later next month.
The school district also contacted the professional misconduct division of the State of Ohio Board of Education about the matter.
Police say the three victims could also face charges in this case since they say the victims also sent nude photos of minors. According to Ohio state law, it does not matter that the photos they sent are nude photos of themselves.
Police say that matter is now in the hands of the juvenile court prosecutor who will make that decision.
Police say it's important for parents to be nosy to detect cases like this. "I think it still comes down to the parents. They need to check their kids' cell phones from time to time and computers as well, " Sgt. Campbell said.
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