A Madison East High School business and marketing teacher, accused of trying to create child pornography with hidden cameras of unwitting members of the school’s business club, appeared before a packed courtroom in the federal courthouse Thursday, as many of those attending watched in tears.
David M. Kruchten, 37, of Cottage Grove, who was indicted by a federal grand jury on Wednesday and arrested at his home Thursday morning, didn’t look back at the gallery as marshals brought him into court wearing a green T-shirt, dark gray athletic pants and leg irons to face seven counts of attempting to produce child pornography.
The din of cries and sobs was constant in the small courtroom as dozens of current and recent East students listened while U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Oppeneer ordered Kruchten to remain jailed until at least next Wednesday. Another hearing will be held to decide whether Kruchten can be released until he faces a trial on the charges.
The gallery was filled almost entirely with young women suspecting they may be victims of Kruchten, along with their parents and supporters, according to attendees who declined to be identified.
Through his lawyer, federal defender Joseph Bugni, Kruchten pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Students and parents, some who appeared shaken, left the courthouse without speaking to gathered media after Thursday’s hearing.
Steven Elbow and Scott Girard:
The incident during the two-day trip with 15 students on Dec. 6 to Dec. 8 has roiled the school’s popular business-oriented DECA program, and school district officials have offered counseling and other services to the alleged victims.
Kruchten was placed on administrative leave after the trip, during which multiple students who were staying at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Minneapolis discovered hidden video recording devices. As of Thursday, he remained employed with the district and on administrative leave.
The charges apparently relate to incidents other than the Minneapolis trip.
A grand jury indictment unsealed by the U.S. Western District Court after his arrest charges Kruchten with seven counts of attempting to produce child pornography. The charges involve seven different victims. Each count carries a penalty of between 15 and 30 years in prison.
Each count charges him with using hidden recording devices.
“The data clearly indicate that being able to read is not a requirement for graduation at (Madison) East, especially if you are black or Hispanic”