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DA: Queens teacher from Bethpage admits child sex crimes

A Bethpage man who teaches at a Queens middle school pleaded guilty Wednesday to attempted use of a child in a sexual performance and other charges, officials said.

Authorities said the man “engaged in sexually explicit communications” with a 15-year-old former student, convincing her to send sexually explicit videos of herself. He also admitted violating an order of protection by contacting the victim after his arrest, according to a news release from the Queens district attorney’s office.

Michael Cognato, 35, is scheduled to be sentenced May 3 in Queens Criminal Court. Judge Gia Morris has indicated she would sentence Cognato to 6 months in jail and 10 years’ probation, Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said.

Authorities said Cognato met the teen, who has not been identified, while working as a math teacher at IS 93 in Ridgewood. As part of his plea, he resigned from the New York City Department of Education and surrendered his New York State teaching license, Brown said.

Between about July and September 2017, Cognato sent the former student increasingly sexually explicit pictures and videos of himself, according to a statement released last fall by authorities, who said the former student then sent similar photos and videos in return. The girl’s mother notified police.

Brown said Cognato admitted those conversations and contacts, and pleaded guilty to attempted use of a child in a sexual performance and second-degree criminal contempt.

“This defendant’s actions are very troublesome,” Brown said in the release, adding: “He preyed on this young student whom he had once been entrusted to teach. This case should serve as a clear and unmistakable warning that parents must be mindful of the people their children communicate with online. And let this be a warning to sexual predators that law enforcement is prepared to pursue you just as diligently as you go after young, innocent children.”

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