BY JON CRONIN
A Ridgewood middle school teacher could face up to 15 years in prison after allegedly being caught sending explicit nude photos and videos to a former 14-year-old student and requesting the same from her, according to the Queens district attorney.
On Oct. 6, Queens DA Richard Brown reported that Michael Cognato, 35, an IS 93 math teacher, was awaiting arraignment in Queens Criminal Court on a 33-count criminal complaint that charges him with 16 counts of first-degree disseminating indecent material to minors, 15 counts of promoting a sexual performance of a child and one count of endangering the welfare of a child.
The girl was a former eighth-grade student of Cognato’s at IS 93. Cognato began tutoring her in math this past summer after her graduation from the school. According to the DA’s office, the two communicated via Facebook, Skype and Snapchat beginning on July 20. The police were informed of the situation by the girl’s mother.
Cognato allegedly sent the girl shirtless photos of himself and then started having sexually explicit conversations via social media. The communications escalated to Cognato’s allegedly sending the girl nude photos of himself.
On Aug. 15, the former student allegedly sent naked photos to Cognato and, in return, Cognato allegedly sent the girl a video of himself performing a sexual act. The Queens DA approximated that Cognato allegedly sent 15 sexually explicit videos of himself to his former student and she allegedly sent just as many videos of the same nature to him as they continued conversations of a sexually explicit nature.
“The charges are very troublesome,” Brown said. “A teacher is accused of preying on a young student he had once been entrusted to teach. A classroom should always be a safe place for a child. If true, this teacher destroyed his former student’s trust. This case should serve as a clear and unmistakable warning that law enforcement is prepared to apprehend and prosecute sexual predators who betray and defile youngsters.”