A flamboyant, Liberace-loving teacher at one of the top high schools in the country could be spending years in prison after prosecutors say he solicited pornographic photos from teenage boys online, and even sought photos from his own students.
Jonathan Cruz, 31, was a teacher and debate coach for Bronx High School of Science, a magnet school ranked by US News as the second-best high school in New York and thirty-fourth in the country. Cruz was arrested last Friday, and the charges against him were based on his allegedly posing as a teenage boy online, then contacting other boys to ask for lewd photos. Cruz allegedly paid for the photos with hundreds of dollars in gift cards.
During a bail hearing on Tuesday, however, prosecutors dropped another bombshell: Cruz allegedly also solicited his own students for such photos. The additional alleged victims, according to the New York Times, were discovered when prosecutors searched through Cruz’s phone following his arrest.
Cruz was known as a flamboyant figure who enjoyed dressing up as Liberace and other historical figures like President Chester A. Arthur. When not seeking nude photos, prosecutors said would make other strange requests, such as asking boys for pictures of their feet or of them flexing their muscles. The New York Post also interviewed an ex-student who claimed Cruz solicited multiple ex-students for sex as soon as they graduated high school. The former student noted that Cruz would have had contact with thousands of additional boys due to his role as a nationally-prominent debate coach
A New York judge ruled that despite the severity of his alleged offenses, Cruz could be released into the custody of his parents provided they co-sign a $1 million bond and agree to keep him in their house. During his release, he will be forbidden from having any access to computers, cell phones, or children, and will have to wear a tracking device.
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