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The Correnti Files / Cops: Teacher's computers recorded relations with girls

Armed with a search warrant, detectives knocked on the

front door of Anthony Correnti's West Islip home in the middle of the night

two-and-a-half months ago. A parent had found sexually explicit photos sent by

Correnti, 26, to her 13-year-old daughter, and they were there to check it out.

Their first discovery, they said, was a brown envelope, stuffed with 20 to

30 Polaroids of naked teenage girls. As they began gathering up floppy disks

and CDs, they stumbled upon a letter from the state. It identified Correnti as

a teacher.

"Oh, Jesus, we've got a problem here," Suffolk Det. Rory Forrestal said he

realized then.

Taken back to police headquarters, Correnti's two computers yielded

hundreds, then thousands, of images. Children as young as 4 years old,

performing sex acts on adult men, more than 10,000 images and 500 video clips

in all. But it was a cache of more than a hundred text files-categorized by

girls' names-that caught their attention.

"That was our major evidence," said Det. Frank Giardina, the lead

investigator on the case.

The computerized inventory of girls in various stages of electronic

courtship and seduction, authorities said, was the road map for an

investigation that would span three counties and rack up 138 counts of sexual

misconduct with children against the former music teacher and sometime rock

musician. Last Friday, Correnti was arraigned on the latest charges, six counts

of statutory rape and sodomy in Nassau County. Correnti, who is being held at

the county jail on $300,000 bail, has pleaded not guilty to all charges. His

family and attorney, Frank Maffei of Bay Shore, have declined to comment.

The files represented a catalog of sorts, containing hundreds of online

chat sessions over several years with more than a hundred girls, carefully cut

from America Online chat rooms and electronically pasted into the text files

for safekeeping. Through the files, detectives began to piece together how this

unassuming choral and band teacher had coaxed, flattered and eventually

befriended a slew of underage girls, sometimes taking as long as two years, and

skillfully led them into sexual relationships.

Police estimate Correnti had contact with some 1,800 young women online and

say that some victims probably have not yet been identified. At least four

girls in the Polaroids still have not been found.

Suffolk detectives called Correnti a "classic computer pedophile," patient,

empathetic and consumed by a desire for underage children.

The technique used by pedophiles is no great mystery. "They essentially

seduce children exactly the same way men and women have been seducing each

other since the dawn of mankind," said Kenneth Lanning, a retired FBI agent who

was the agency's top psychological profiler of child molesters.

"They're basically engaged in the age-old practice of buttering up," said

Steven Bisbie, a psychologist from Takoma Park, Md., who studies molesters.

Correnti, along with his younger brother, grew up in West Islip, in the

same home on Kurzon Road that police would later raid to seize his computer and

arrest him. His parents divorced years ago, and he shared the home recently

with his father. His brother moved to Florida.

At West Islip High School, Correnti was on the swim team as a freshman and

played several other sports but found his passion in music. He sang in chorus

all four years and was heavily involved in orchestra and jazz band, playing


Outside of school, he dabbled in rock bands with friends, writing lyrics,

playing guitar and keyboards and singing. With his long hair and affinity for

hair and metal bands, like Motley Crue and Poison, Correnti fit the role of

rock musician well.

Acquaintances described him as well-liked and with plenty of friends,

although not necessarily "popular" according to the school's social hierarchy.

But among women, according to several classmates, Correnti had a reputation for


After graduating from West Islip in 1992, Correnti enrolled at Wagner

College on Staten Island and graduated with a degree in music education. In

1997, he started working for the Manhattan High School for Environmental

Studies, a magnet school in Manhattan, as a choir and band teacher.

In Manhattan, he interviewed with the head of the music department, an

assistant principal and the principal. A school source said Correnti proved

himself to be competent in his interviews but did not necessarily overwhelm.

But Correnti established himself as a "good" teacher and gave "brilliant

concerts," said retired principal Alex Corbluth. Correnti led the school choirs

in rousing performances of Gershwin and other composers in the classical

American repertoire, Corbluth said.

He also was asked to teach journalism when the adviser for the school

paper, The Eagle, left. Correnti, again, did a solid job, Corbluth said.

"He was a decent teacher and seemed to be a decent human being," Corbluth


During summers, Correnti worked as a lifeguard at Splish Splash, the water

theme park in Riverhead. Police said they have no evidence of misconduct at the


In February 1999, a 17-year-old student went to her guidance counselor to

report that Correnti, her journalism teacher, was sexually harassing her.

According to a subsequent report from New York City Special Commissioner of

Investigations Ed Stancik's Office, which looked into the incident, the

student said she had been talking with Correnti, when the conversation turned

to pornography on the Internet. The student told Correnti she had a

pornographic video she made with her boyfriend. Correnti told her that he had

nude photographs of himself.

Correnti repeatedly harassed the student about seeing the video and offered

to give her a grade of 100 in exchange, the report stated.

Correnti admitted to investigators that he had a conversation with two

students about Internet porn and that he had asked about a home video of the

student but said he was only joking.

The report, dated July 12, 1999, concluded that Correnti should be

terminated because his behavior was clearly inappropriate for a teacher and

that he did not know how to conduct himself with students.

Unknown to the investigators and administrators at the time, Correnti had

already done much worse, prosecutors said. He had started having sex with one

of his journalism students in November 1998, arranging for encounters in the

school's band room instrument closet and in an auditorium closet, they said. He

videotaped an encounter he had with her and another 14-year-old journalism

student, together, in a band instrument closet in February 1999, they said.

Investigators later found this videotape with the Polaroids in his home.

Correnti resigned from the High School for Environmental Studies in

September, before he could be fired. The difference proved crucial.

In August, before he resigned, he had started interviewing with the Seaford

School District on the South Shore of Nassau County. He brought with him

several glowing letters of recommendation, along with a videotape of one of his

concerts that impressed the district's director of music, said Superintendent

Ranier Melucci.

When administrators checked his references, they returned only positive

comments without a mention of Stancik's investigation into Correnti's conduct,

Melucci said.

"We really have to rely on people from other places to be honest," he said.

A Manhattan school source, however, said that school officials had received

no information about the investigation's outcome, even though it was

essentially completed in July. In the absence of a clear outcome, school

officials elected not to mention the investigation.

"Sometimes allegations against a teacher are supported," the source said.

"Other times, they have no grounds, but they still do damage."

But experts said the Manhattan school's reaction was typical of a pervasive

problem in education circles, a practice critics deride as "passing the trash."

"[Pedophiles] leave because they know the authorities will let it drop if

they're gone," said Bisbie, the psychologist.

Charol Shakeshaft, a Hofstra University professor who has studied child

molestation in schools for more than a decade, found in a 1994 survey of nearly

200 school district superintendents across New York that 221 teachers had

quietly resigned or retired from their districts after a report of sexual abuse.

"The predominant response was they would kind of bargain with the person,

'If you retire, or if you leave, we won't say anything about it,'" she said.

At Seaford High School, Correnti served as an assistant vocal director,

mostly giving voice lessons to small groups of students. He was known as a hip

teacher, one with a casual style and little use for structure.

"He was a musician," said PTA President Maureen La Sala, whose two

daughters took chorus with Correnti. "So he was not like an English teacher. He

was a little avant-garde."

But Correnti again ran into problems. He resigned in March 2000 after a

racy online chat between him and a Seaford student was found in the school by a

teacher and turned over to administrators, according to police and

acquaintances. Melucci declined to comment on the specifics of the charges

against Correnti.

He was reported by the district to the State Department of Education.

The state had previously investigated the Manhattan incident, along with

the city, but deemed the case lacking in sufficient evidence, said Tom Dunn, a

spokesman for the state Education Department. Taken together, the two

complaints represented a pattern of behavior that warranted license revocation,

he said.

No one with state or with the school district notified police.

Bandmates from Action Jackson, a cover band in which Correnti played guitar

and keyboard and sang backup vocals last year, recalled Correnti being

depressed after he left Seaford. He moped about between sets, seldom

socializing. Instead, he would go to a corner and take out a biography to read.

They recalled him reading about Abraham Lincoln and Charlie Chaplin.

Correnti alternated between giddiness and depression, they said. "He

actually cried a couple times at shows," said a band member who asked not to be


He claimed he had been set up in his run-in with Seaford school

administrators, that the girl had been flirting with him. He told his friends

that he wanted to reapply for his teaching license in a few years.

Correnti seemed to have few interests, except music and computers, the band

member said. Correnti designed Action Jackson's Web page and included a link

to a site for the porn star Ron Jeremy. Band members said they thought he was

only downloading Napster tunes with all the hours he seemed to spend online.

"In hindsight, there were little clues here and there," the bandmate said.

But "nothing screamed this guy is a...chester molester."

Correnti had been dating a 17-year-old girl, who the band members teased

him about, calling him a "cradle robber." But they dismissed the relationship

as nothing serious, he said.

The 17-year-old, who police said was actually 16, was a girl to whom he had

been giving private voice lessons. Her parents had even met Correnti, but they

didn't know he was dating their daughter. She was one of the girls he was

eventually charged with abusing, police said.

"We thought we knew him really well," recalled the band member. "I

considered him a friend. I was going to invite him to my wedding."

Correnti eventually left Action Jackson in August 2000, after clashes with

other members. He rejoined his old band, BS Watson, comprised of a group of

high school friends. They all declined to comment.

Banned from teaching, Correnti had started working at the Sam Goody music

store in Smith Haven Mall. Correnti worked there full-time for about a year, a

manager said.

According to detectives, judging from the file dates on his computer,

Correnti's online activity spiked after he was forced from the School for

Environmental Studies and less than a year later from Seaford.

Correnti usually hung out in an array of Long Island Internet chat rooms on

AOL. The rooms are labeled by area of interest or geographic locale. Any AOL

user can join and start "chatting" with others. The rooms fill with mostly

teenagers after school.

La Sala, the PTA president, remembered that her daughters once encountered

Correnti online. Wary of them talking to adults on the Internet, she forbade

them from talking to him again. Other students mentioned talking to him online

as well, she said.

Correnti typically made no effort to hide his age, police said. He appealed

to emotionally vulnerable teenagers who were rebelling from their parents and

trying to feel older, detectives said. They often confided in him about their

problems with friends and parents.

Lanning, the retired FBI profiler, pointed out that pedophiles often simply

fulfill a need in their victims for a listening ear, support and affection.

Contrary to popular belief, victims are usually not taken violently,

threatened, or even necessarily duped into relationships, something parents

must confront, he said.

"My mom doesn't understand me. My dad's all over me. I like this kind of

music, and my mother won't let me play it," Lanning said. "Whatever the heck it

is, what you're attempting to do is try to find what the void is, so you can

step in and fill that void," he said of molesters.

Many of Correnti's victims defended him to police and took pains to point

out they were never forced to do anything, detectives said.

Once Correnti established an initial trust, a period Lanning calls

"lowering their inhibitions" usually followed. Pedophiles typically raise the

subject of sex in subtle ways, a little at a time, he said, likening the

practice to an "Internet back rub."

The longest of Correnti's relationships dates back to 1997, when the girl

was 14, police said. He had sex with that girl two years later, police said.

According to his Manhattan indictment, he had sexual encounters with one victim

on 11 different dates, from November 1998 to June 1999. In another case, the

one that finally prompted his arrest after a mother found e-mails from Correnti

to her daughter, Correnti began talking to the girl a year-and-a-half earlier,

when she was 12. He allegedly went to her home in January and sexually abused

her twice while her parents were out.

After the police raid, Correnti was indicted in Suffolk on 52 counts of

sexually abusing and raping five teenage girls, ranging in age from 13 to 17,

and photographing them. He was also indicted in Manhattan on 80 counts of rape,

sodomy and sexual abuse, stemming from the encounters in the band room closet.

The recent Nassau charges grow out of several encounters prosecutors say he

had with a Bellemore girl over two years, beginning when she was 14.

Apparently, Correnti, who went by the screen-name "Singing80s" among

others, needed a way to keep track of the hundreds of teenagers he was

cultivating for relationships, so he began cataloging them on his computer,

Giardina said.

Pedophiles often also keep such records as titillating souvenirs, Bisbie


Bisbie, Lanning and others said that the closer in age a perpetrator and

victim are, the more difficult it becomes to classify the relationship in terms

of the degree of manipulation involved. Correnti's case, for example, is

clearly different from that of a 50-year-old abusing a 10-year-old girl, they


Bisbie pointed out, however, that the emotional scarring on a victim is no


Said Bisbie: "He made them feel special, only for them to realize later

that it was only a ruse."

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