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Union County Man, Ex-High School Choir Director Sentenced for Engaging in Sexually Explicit Chats

Cranford Ocean Twp.

Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that a former music teacher who directed the choir at Ocean Township High School was sentenced to state prison today for engaging in sexually explicit chats with underage girls on the Internet.

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, was sentenced today to five years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Joseph P. Donohue in Union County. He will be required to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law and will face parole supervision for life.

Ernst pleaded guilty on June 26 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. Ernst 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.

“Ernst betrayed his profession, the parents who entrusted him with their children, and every standard of decency,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “By sexually stalking underage girls online, including girls he taught in choir, Ernst proved that he is a dangerous predator.”

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.

Acting Attorney General Hoffman and Director Honig urged anyone who suspects improper contact by persons communicating with children on the Internet or possible exploitation or sexual abuse of children to contact the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Tipline at 888-648-6007.