Former Shamokin Area sub gets house arrest in sexting case
SUNBURY - A former substitute teacher at Shamokin Area School District charged almost a year ago with sending several sexually graphic text messages to four girls under the age of 18 was sentenced Monday afternoon to 3 years of intermediate punishment and 2 consecutive years of supervised probation.
Michael S. Zack, 24, of Marion Heights, who pleaded guilty in December to a felony of unlawful contact with a minor and a misdemeanor of corruption of minors, also was ordered by Northumberland County President Judge Robert B. Sacavage to pay $600 in fines plus various costs and fees.
The defendant will serve the first six months of his sentence on house arrest that requires him to wear an ankle bracelet, allowing authorities to monitor his movements.
Zack, who was ordered to begin his sentence immediately, is prohibited from having contact with the victims and any other females under the age of 18 unless authorized by adult probation officials.
Not a predator, must register with state police
The judge imposed the sentence after reviewing a pre-sentence investigation report compiled by adult probation department employee Clifford Kinney.
Sacavage said an assessment by the Sexual Offenders Assessment Board determined that Zack is not a sexually violent predator, but reported Kinney found the defendant to be suffering from sexual compulsion.
Although he was not deemed a sexual violent predator, Zack still must register his residence and employment with state police for the next 15 years in accordance with the Adam Walsh Act. He also was ordered by Sacavage to complete a sexual offenders course.
Zack, who has no prior criminal record, apologized to the court and First Assistant District Attorney Ann Targonski for his actions, but claimed the number of sexually graphic messages was overestimated and that he was not the "aggressor" in the crimes.
The defendant told the judge he has had normal relationships with girlfriends through the years.
His attorney, Marc Lieberman of Elysburg, who was surprised by some of his client's statements, said Zack was taking full responsibility for his actions. He pointed out that Zack never had physical contact with any of the victims. "There was never any person-to-person contact here. It was all done by electronic communication," Lieberman told Sacavage.
At one point, Sacavage, who appeared annoyed when Zack became a bit defensive about the charges lodged against him, asked the defendant, "Are you trying to tell me this is normal activity for a 24-year-old school teacher?" Zack replied, "No, your honor."
Prior to imposing sentence, Sacavage said Zack's case was unusual because of his fine academic, athletic and community-oriented background.
He said Zack was an honor student in college, had a great football career at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional High School and served as a volunteer firefighter. He also said Zack served as a volunteer with the Salvation Army and completed an internship with the county juvenile probation department prior to becoming a substitute teacher.
But he said his alleged crimes embarrassed him, his family and the community.
The judge said he believed Zack was a better candidate for intermediate punishment than jail.
Zack was charged March 15 by Coal Township Detective Jeff Brennan with sending approximately 4,300 text messages to two 17-year-old females and two 16-year-old girls who attended Shamokin Area at the time. Many of the messages, which were sent between March 15 and Oct. 30, 2011, depicted sexually graphic material, police said.
Police said the incidents occurred in the east end of the township and at Shamokin Area Middle/High School.
A misdemeanor count of sending obscene and other sexual materials was not prosecuted.
Prior to his guilty plea, Zack voluntarily signed an affidavit surrendering his teacher's license, which had been suspended, Targonski said.
Zack was hired as a 180-day substitute teacher in the district in August 2011 and terminated by the school board at its December 2011 meeting, retroactive to Nov. 16, 2011.