A Bethpage man who teaches math at a Queens middle school has been charged with sex crimes after allegedly exchanging lewd photos and videos with one of his former students, prosecutors said Friday.
Michael Cognato, 35, pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Friday night and was released after posting a $10,000 cash bail, according to his attorney, Scott Gross of Garden City.
Cognato allegedly began the sexually explicit communications around July after teaching the then-14-year-old victim math as an eighth-grader at IS 93 in Ridgewood and tutoring her after she graduated, according to a news release from the Queens County district attorney’s office.
From around July to September, Cognato sent the former student increasingly sexually explicit pictures and videos of himself, the statement said.
The former student sent similar photos and videos in return, the statement said. Her mother notified police.
Cognato is charged with promoting a sexual performance of a child, use of a child in a sexual performance, disseminating indecent material to minors and endangering the welfare of a child, which together carry a possible prison sentence of up to 15 years, the statement said.
“A classroom should always be a safe place for a child,” Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said in the statement. “The charges are very troublesome.”
Gross said Saturday he was not aware whether Cognato’s arrest would affect his employment at IS 93. School administrators could not be reached Saturday for comment.
“Mr. Cognato is a well-respected and admired educator,” Gross said. “These allegations, which he has denied, are completely out of character and will be vigorously challenged.”