Seneca Valley Teacher Arrested for Possession of Child Pornography
2/24/16 – See the update on this case.
February, 2016 — A Seneca Valley Teacher has been charged with one count of possession of child pornography. Attorney David Shrager was hired to defend the man, Jonathan Brecht, 26, of Franklin Park.
Watch and read the below videos and news articles regarding this case.
Criminal Attorney Shrager had this to say to Channel 11 News:
“I know that people love their children, and I appreciate that. But it’s important to maintain a cool head and judge this from a place of rationality. We have to look at the evidence, not just the allegations,” David Shrager, Brecht’s attorney, told Channel 11 News Friday.
WPXI Channel 11 News: Seneca Valley Middle School teacher arrested for possession of child pornography
CBS Pittsburgh Channel 2 News: Seneca Valley Teacher Arrested For Child Porn Possession
Pittsburgh Channel 4 News – Bob Mayo Report – Seneca Valley teacher charged with possessing child porn
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Seneca Valley suspends teacher charged with child porn
The Seneca Valley School District announced Friday that it suspended without pay a middle school math teacher a day after he was arrested on a charge of possessing child pornography.
Meanwhile, the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office said that despite investigating the case since June, it learned only Friday from Seneca Valley that defendant Jonathan Brecht, 26, of Franklin Park, was a teacher. As a result, the DA’s office is continuing its investigation and said it plans to notify its counterparts in Butler County.
Authorities got involved in June after a dating app called Skout notified the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that an adult was ”knowingly sex chatting with a minor” on May 2. Lynn Havelka, a detective with the DA’s office, tracked the online communication to Mr. Brecht, the affidavit said.
Mr. Brecht told investigators that he had used Skout to suggest a sexual liaison with a 16-year-old girl, according to the affidavit. The two never met. The affidavit said Mr. Brecht told authorities that the incident was a “bad lack of judgment,” that “it got out of hand” and that he was wrong.
Mr. Brecht was interviewed in July, explaining to Detective Havelka and an FBI agent that he broke up with his girlfriend in 2010, had been in counseling since then and created a female screen name to contact the girl “because it was easier to chat as a woman.”
Investigators eventually pored over Mr. Brecht’s hard drive and found three images of child pornography, the affidavit said.
“He admitted that some of the pictures are questionable as to their age. He stated that there may be some underage naked pictures of children on his hard drive,” according to the affidavit. “Brecht states that he has never touched a child and has no desire to be with a child and is willing to take a polygraph.”
Mr. Brecht, who lives with his mother, was arraigned Thursday on one felony count of possessing child pornography. He is in the Allegheny County Jail on $100,000 straight bond.
“My client has no previous criminal history. He’s a respected member of the community,” said Mr. Brecht’s attorney, David J. Shrager.
The school’s online directory lists Mr. Brecht as a faculty member. He appears as having a teaching certification in good standing on the state Department of Education’s website.
Mr. Brecht faces a preliminary hearing Feb. 23 before Leetsdale District Judge Robert L. Ford.
Pittsburgh Tribune Review: Seneca Valley math teacher arrested on child pornography charge
| Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, 6:33 a.m.
Allegheny County investigators began talking to Jonathan Brecht in July about child pornography on his computer hard drive. On Thursday, they charged him with possession of child porn.
What Brecht, 26, of Franklin Park didn’t tell investigators — and what they didn’t learn until Friday morning when the Seneca Valley School District called — is that he teaches seventh-grade math at Seneca Valley Middle School.
The Butler County school district has suspended Brecht without pay, spokeswoman Linda Andreassi said Friday in a statement. She did not respond to questions about whether Brecht has been teaching students since the start of the school year in late August — about a month after he spoke to authorities.
Brecht’s classroom page on the district’s website appeared to be up to date, including a homework assignment dated Friday with Brecht’s name on it. The assignment is due Feb. 26.
“At this time, we have no reason to believe the charges against the suspended employee have any connection with the district,” Andreassi said.
Brecht told police in July that his 1.5-terabyte hard drive had been half-filled with photos — some of them pornographic — but he deleted them before his police interview, the criminal complaint said. He acknowledged to police that some of the photos might depict naked children as well as nude and clothed photos of celebrities and pictures from individuals who posted to a website. Police forensics later found three pictures of child pornography.
Mike Manko, spokesman for Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., acknowledged the office only learned Friday that Brecht is a teacher. Brecht originally told police he worked in sales at Target in McCandless.
“The revelation that this defendant is employed in a setting with young children is a significant concern,” Manko said. “We will be continuing our investigation in an effort to determine if this defendant has had any inappropriate or abusive contact with children.”
Brecht’s attorney, David Shrager, said he could not comment on why Brecht didn’t tell police he was a teacher. Shrager said he is in the early stages of his own investigation.
“My client is very upset, as these charges are extremely serious and these allegations are extremely serious as well,” Shrager said.
Target’s corporate media relations office did not return a call from the Tribune-Review seeking comment. A Facebook profile with Brecht’s name and a photo of him in a classroom lists Toys R Us under past employment.
Brecht is free on $100,000 bond.
According to the criminal complaint, Brecht used Skout.com — a location-based website and application for meeting people — to pose as a 24-year-old woman known as “Lexi.” He used the profile to have a sexually explicit conversation with a teenage girl, who sent Brecht photos of herself and told him she was 16, according to the complaint.
“Brecht stated that he had one conversation with her and it was a bad lack of judgment to have the conversation that he did with her,” investigators wrote in their complaint.
During the conversation, Brecht asked the girl if she wanted to meet for sex, police said. He told police the conversation was a “severe error.”
Investigators traced the IP address to the home of Brecht’s mother, where he lives. No one answered the door at the home Friday.
Brecht told police he had initially signed up on the website with the intention of discussing “normal items,” and then posed as a woman because it’s easier for people to talk to women, according to the complaint.
He said he deleted the app and photos from his phone and computer when his mother told him investigators called their home.
“Brecht stated that he has never touched a child and has no desire to be with a child and is willing to take a polygraph,” district attorney Detective Lynn Havelka wrote in the complaint after interviewing Brecht.
When asked why Brecht wasn’t charged sooner, Manko said the time frame of the investigation was not unusual.
“The majority of our investigations into child pornography take anywhere from six months to a year from the time the activity is suspected until the time when charges are able to be filed,” he said.
According to Brecht’s personal website, he graduated from North Allegheny High School in 2007 and from Robert Morris University in 2011. He completed his student teaching at Seneca Valley.
He was hired full time by Seneca Valley in September 2014, according to the district’s website.
State Department of Education records show Brecht has credentials to teach math to students in grades 7-12 and instructional technology to all grades, as well as to teach online and work with students with autism spectrum disorder.
A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Feb. 23 before District Judge Robert L. Ford in Leetsdale.