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A Bucks County music director accused of molesting his students has been sentenced to jail | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey

A once-popular music director in the Central Bucks School District who prosecutors say molested two of his former students and secretly recorded another will spend 2½-to-five years behind bars for those crimes.

Joseph Ohrt, who pleaded no contest to indecent assault, corruption of minors, invasion of privacy and related charges, was sentenced to that term Monday by Bucks County Judge Jeffrey L. Finley.

Ohrt spent over three decades as a music teacher and choir director in elementary, middle, and high schools in the district, overseeing acts that performed at the White House and earning Twitter praise from the singer PinnaNK, a former student.

But behind those accolades was a man who abused his position of power, prosecutors say, victimizing and grooming students who trusted him.

Ohrt, 57, retired from the Central Bucks West High School after a leave of absence in 2021. Ohrt, of Furlong, is a graduate of the district.

Police began investigating Ohrt when a student reported that the teacher told him he loved him when he was a senior in 2016 and tried to spend time alone with him. He said Ohrt later made advances toward him when he was 19 years old. Then, when he was in college, the man said, Ohrt invited him to live in Ohrt’s Buckingham Township home, where he secretly recorded the student in videos that captured him undressing..

Ohrt was arrested in that case and after seeing their former teacher in the headlines, two other men came forward to tell investigators Ohrt had touched them inappropriately both on and off school grounds when they were 11 and 13 years old in the 1990s.

In court Monday, Ohrt’s former students, now adults, gave tearful statements in which they described sleepless nights, ruined relationships, and thousands of dollars in therapy as they grappled with Ohrt’s actions from when they were children and teens. One man said he was in sixth grade when the teacher groped him during piano lessons in the school music room.

Last fall, Ohrt pleaded no contest to indecent assault and corruption of minors in connection with those allegations and to invasion of privacy for secretly recording the student.

The invasion of privacy count, said the man who was recorded undressing, hardly did justice to his betrayal and suffering.

“It pales in comparison to what Ohrt has truly invaded,” he said as his loved ones wrapped their arms around each other and held back tears on a nearby bench. “He has invaded my life, my future, my mind, my soul, he’s stolen many years from me that I will not get back.”

In advance of Ohrt’s sentencing, friends submitted letters to the court lauding the teacher’s accomplishments. And Ohrt told the judge there would “not be a day that passes … that I will not feel profound regret for my decisions.”

Finley, the judge, found that apology wanting. And he said Ohrt’s plea of no contest — which does not include an admission of guilt — lacked acknowledgment of the gravity of the harm he inflicted on the students he was entrusted to nurture.

“You don’t have the courage to admit your conduct,” Finely said to Ohrt. “I don’t believe you care about anyone but yourself.”

Before the judge pronounced the sentence, prosecutors and Ohrt’s attorney, Mark Neff, sparred over whether he should be classified as a violent sexual predator.

Deputy District Attorney Brittney Kern said Ohrt was likely to offend again and offered testimony from Kristen Dudley, a state board psychologist who testified in the Bill Cosby assault trials.

“Ohrt chose students in his music classes, developed a special relationship, desensitizing them to his touch — hugging before coming before sexual in nature,” Dudley said, adding that she believed Ohrt’s actions represented a longstanding pattern of behavior.

Neff disagreed with that assessment and presented a psychological evaluation that said Ohrt was unlike to offend again.

Finley ruled that Ohrt did not meet the definition of a violent sexual offender, a designation that would have required him to register as an offender for life.

“I’m bound by the law,” Finely said of his decision. “That doesn’t mean I don’t think you’re a predator.”

Ohrt received five years probation in addition to prison time, and must register as a sex offender for 15 years and pay over $2,000 to one victim for therapy fees.

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