The assistant principal of Wyandanch Memorial High School pleaded not guilty Tuesday to charges alleging he sent sexually explicit text messages to students and teachers in his school.
Craig Cohen, 47, of Northport, entered the not guilty plea through his Legal Aid attorney during an arraignment Tuesday at First District Court in Central Islip. He was charged with three counts of second-degree aggravated harassment and endangering the welfare of a child.
Prosecutors allege Cohen sent inappropriate messages to two students and some teachers, though only one adult reported the incident to police.
An investigation began at the end of February after a 16-year-old female student showed up at the First Precinct in West Babylon to file a report claiming she was “receiving aggravating texts on her cell phone,” Suffolk Police Inspector Gerard Gigante said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference.
Police said the girl reported receiving texts from an unknown number, but the references made her believe that the person sending the messages was Cohen. “The texts were of a sexual nature and were disturbing,” Gigante said. During the investigation, detectives learned that “a few teachers” were also receiving inappropriate text messages from the same number.
Asked how Cohen obtained the students’ phone numbers, Gigante said “as she reports it, [Cohen], had grabbed the cell phone from her during a lunch period and dialed his cell number into it. He waited for the call to go through and at that point, he hung up the phone and gave it back to her.”
Authorities said that a second female student reported last week that she too was receiving sexually explicit text messages and also believed the messages to be coming from Cohen. Gigante said the 17-year-old victim had told detectives that Cohen had grabbed the phone from her, dialed his number and waited for the call to go through. Afterwards, she reportedly began to receive sexual text messages on her phone.
In court documents obtained by Examiner.com, police allege that when the 17-year-old victim asked who was sending the messages, Cohen replied “this is your text lover.” He also texted her to “come down to his office,” police said. “In her words, she felt ‘creepy’ about it,” Gigante said.
Asked to describe the nature of the messages, Gigante said “some of them talked about genitalia…they were disturbing and in some cases intimidating to the students.”
According to authorities, Cohen never came back to the school after the second victim reported the incidents to police. Cops said he was off last week and was arrested Monday morning as he was headed back to work.
In a statement posted to the district’s website, Superintendent Pless Dickerson said “…the staff member has been reassigned immediately and further appropriate action will be taken by the school District pending the results of the investigation by the Suffolk County Police Department.” He did not return numerous follow-up phone calls.
Four orders of protection against Cohen were signed. He is being held on $7,500 bail.