By Philip Newman
A math teacher at a Ridgewood middle school has been charged with child endangerment as well as other crimes for what Queens prosecutors say was taking part in sexually explicit communications with a 14-year-old girl who was once his student.
“This case should serve as a clear and unmistakable warning that law enforcement is prepared to apprehend and prosecute predators who betray and defile youngsters,” said District Attorney Richard Brown.
The defendant was identified as Michael Cognato, 35, of Bethpage, L.I., a math teacher at IS 93 in Ridgewood. He was arraigned Oct.6 on a 33-count criminal complaint charging him with use of a child for a sexual performance, 16 counts of 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, according to the DA.
If convicted, Cognato, who is free on $20,000 bond, could get up to 15 years in prison.
The complaint said the girl was a student of Cognato’s when she was in the eighth grade at IS 93. Following her graduation from the school, Cognato tutored her that summer in advanced math and in the following year Cagnato began communicating with her via Facebook and Skype,
Later Cognate was accused of initiating sex conversations, including suggesions that they have sexual intercourse and oral sex, the DA said. He also sent pictures of himself masturbating and the victim sent pictures of herself nude, some with her touching her genitals, according to the complaint.
Authorities said the case came to light when the victim’s mother notified police.