Denton High School students were puzzled on Thursday when journalism teacher Greg Bogomol was ignominiously escorted from the building. They were soon tweeting about rumors "that something happened."
Rumors are slippery, unreliable things, as any high school journalism student can attest. Maybe they contain a nugget of truth. Lucky for the truth-seekers at Denton High, then, that Bogomol's case includes a federal criminal complaint.
The complaint was filed on Friday and accuses Bogomol of sexual exploitation of minors.
There was nothing physical, at least nothing that's been so far in court documents. The alleged exploitation was purely digital, carried out at least in part through Kik, a cross-platform smartphone messaging app.
The feds' investigation began on May 6 when the parents of a 15-year-old Louisiana boy contacted Homeland Security about a Kik user going by the name Crystal Williams.
Williams, purportedly a teenage girl, had messaged the boy out of the blue wanting to chat. According to the feds, innocent texting quickly turned to sexting. Before long Williams was sending over nude photos, with a request the the boy return the favor. He responded with a closeup of his genitals but refused -- and indeed seems to have been creeped out by -- Williams's request that he send a full body shot, face included.
It didn't take Homeland Security long to reach the conclusion the Crystal Williams was not the lithe teenage girl she purported to be. An agent quickly traced the Kik account to a Voice over IP number registered with Pinger, which led to an AOL email address, which led to Bogomol.
Homeland Security showed up at Bogomol's home later the same day. He readily acceded to a search of his Samsung Galaxy cell phone, which turned up a copy of Grindr, the gay hookup app, which in turn contained sexually explicit conversations with what appeared to be underage boys. In one of the agents' cars, away from his wife, Bogomol allegedly confessed to chatting up 14 to 17 year old boys in hopes of convincing them to send nude photos.
A subsequent search of Bogomol's cell phone -- this one more exhaustive and authorized by a warrant -- turned up several files of child porn. The specific image on which the feds base was received through Kik.
It's important to distinguish here between possession of child pornography, which is the typical charge when the cops find pics one someone's computer or phone, and sexual exploitation of minors, which Bogomol is charged with. The latter charge is associated with the production of child pornography ("Any person who employs, uses, persuades, induces, entices, or coerces any minor to engage in ... any sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing any visual depiction of such conduct" can be charged) and carries a much stiffer penalty.
If a jury finds that Bogomol did, in fact, coerce underage boys into sending him nude photos, he's going to prison for 15 years, minimum.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.