A Queens middle school teacher 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, 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 the Queens District Attorney’s office.
From around July to September, Cognato sent the former student increasingly racy pictures of himself and more than a dozen videos of himself masturbating, the statement said.
The former student sent similar photos and videos in return, the statement said. Her mother eventually notified the police.
“A classroom should always be a safe place for a child,” Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said in an emailed statement. “The charges are very troublesome.”
“Mr. Cognato is a well-respected and admired educator,” his attorney, Scott Gross of Garden City, said in an email Friday night. “These allegations, which he has denied, are completely out of character and will be vigorously challenged.”
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.