Former Park City teacher pleads guilty to soliciting student
May 31, 2016
A former Ecker Hill Middle School teacher accused of sending hundreds of inappropriate emails to a student over the course of several months pleaded guilty in late May to two second-degree felony counts of solicitation of a minor.
Derek Spitzer, 54 and last known to live in Salt Lake City, taught music in the Park City School District for 13 years and was fired in January amid the criminal case. According to charging documents, he sent approximately 500 emails, many of them sexual in nature, to a student at Ecker Hill between October and January.
In the emails, Spitzer asked the student to answer questions as part of a fake study about sexuality, according to the court documents. He was also accused of giving the student $50 for participating in the fictitious study.
The emails became more egregious as time wore on, the charging documents indicate. Spitzer eventually solicited the student for sexual activity and asked the student to accompany him on a trip to Las Vegas. Police accused Spitzer of using his position as a teacher to "groom" the student.
Authorities learned of Spitzer’s conduct when the student showed the emails to a school counselor in early January, court documents state. Spitzer was arrested later that month.
Spitzer faces one to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each count. Sentencing is scheduled for July 11 in 3rd District Court at Silver Summit. Court documents state that, as part of his plea, prosecutors will recommend his sentences run concurrently.
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He was initially charged with four counts: solicitation to commit sodomy upon a child and solicitation to commit aggravated sexual abuse of a child, both first-degree felonies, as well as second- and third-degree counts of enticing a minor by Internet or text.
A search of the Utah court records indicates Spitzer had never before been in legal trouble in the state.
The case spurred action by the school district. In the wake of Spitzer’s conduct, the district installed technology that flags inappropriate or malicious words in emails from faculty members or students.
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