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Ex-teacher claims leniency promised in 'sexting' case

| Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

A former high school math teacher accused of “sexting” a student told a judge he was promised leniency in exchange for a confession, but two state troopers denied the allegations.

Kevin Lee Bell, 27, of Gimlet Hill Road, Bullskin, is charged by state police at Uniontown with sending sexual materials to a minor and corruption of minors. Police said Bell texted pictures of his penis and a video of himself performing a sex act to a then-17-year-old girl in March.

With his attorney, Emily Smarto of Greensburg, Bell appeared in court on Thursday in an attempt to have his statements to police suppressed. After a hearing, Judge Gerald R. Solomon denied the request.

During the hearing, Bell testified he left work at Connellsville Area High School on March 20 when his principal advised him of the allegations. He was at his father's office on Prittstown Road in Bullskin when troopers James Pierce and William Brown arrived that afternoon to question him.

Distraught, Bell said he advised Pierce he wanted to be honest, but he could not recall sending the messages to the teen because he had blacked out from drinking.

“He (Pierce) found that hard to believe, but when I drink, that's what happens,” said Bell, adding that his driver's license was under suspension at the time for drunken driving.

Bell said Pierce and Brown rose to leave the office when he told them he did not know what they wanted him to say in a written statement. Bell testified Pierce then advised him he would ask District Attorney Jack Heneks to “go easy on him” if he cooperated.

“He proceeded to say, ‘If you write this down, we'll talk to the district attorney, to go easy on you,'” Bell testified.

Pierce and Brown denied the allegations. Pierce testified that during the March interview with Bell, he explained the difference between a misdemeanor and a more serious felony charge, but he never promised Bell leniency in exchange for a statement.

Pierce testified he read Bell his Miranda rights when Bell agreed to give a statement. Bell initialed a form indicating he understood his rights, Pierce testified, then provided a written statement. Pierce testified he advised Bell he would take his statement to Heneks, but told him that he “was not a judge” and could not guarantee any specific outcome to the case.

Bell resigned his teaching position in May and the state suspended his teaching certification in June. He is free on $25,000 percentage bond.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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