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Seneca Valley math teacher arrested on child pornography charge

| Friday, Feb. 12, 2016, 6:33 a.m.
Allgheny County Police
Jonathan Brecht, 26, of Franklin Park was arrested Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016, and charged with possession of child pornography.

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.

Staff writers Matthew Santoni and Vince Townley contributed to this report. Megan Guza is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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