Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that a former music teacher who directed the choir at Ocean Township High School pleaded guilty today to manufacturing child pornography and other crimes.
He admitted that he posed as a teenager online and sent obscene materials to underage girls – including three of his choir members – while soliciting them to expose themselves on a webcam or send him nude photos or videos.
Arthur N. Ernst III, 28, of Cranford, N.J., pleaded guilty before Superior Court Judge Joseph P. Donohue in Union County to second-degree manufacturing child pornography, third-degree impairing or debauching the morals of a child under 16, and third-degree promoting obscene material to a person under 18.
Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Ernst be sentenced to eight years in state prison, including three years of parole ineligibility.
He will be required to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law and will face parole supervision for life.
Ernst also must surrender his state teaching certificate and is permanently barred from public employment. He was terminated from his teaching job at Ocean Township High School following his arrest on April 21, 2011.
Sentencing for Ernst is scheduled for Aug. 28.
Ernst admitted that in late 2010 and early 2011, prior to his arrest, he posed as a teenage boy to engage in sexually explicit online chats with three members of his school choir – all girls under the age of 16 – in which he tried to get them to expose themselves on a webcam or send him naked photos or videos of themselves.
An investigation by the New Jersey State Police revealed that Ernst sent photos or videos of naked young men to the three students, pretending they were images of the boy he was role-playing, in order to encourage the victims to expose themselves. Those three students did not expose themselves to Ernst, despite his repeated efforts. Ernst targeted the victims using computer contact information such as AIM and Skype screen names, including contact information provided to him as a teacher.
Detectives seized two laptop computers from Ernst’s home on the day of his arrest. A forensic examination of the computers revealed he possessed numerous images of child pornography. It also revealed that, beyond the choir members, Ernst engaged in dozens of sexually explicit exchanges with additional minors, again posing as a teenage boy or girl and often harassing girls for naked photos or videos.
In pleading guilty to manufacturing child pornography, Ernst admitted that in August 2010, he convinced a Colorado girl, age 12, to make and send him an iPhone video in which she undressed and exposed her breasts and genitals.
Ernst sent the girl pornographic images and links to videos on a pornographic website to encourage her.
The New Jersey investigation began when the Parker Police Department in Colorado referred that case to the New Jersey State Police.