[Editor's note: Certain errors were corrected from a previous version of this story on 8-30-12]
Sean McCullough, of the 100 block of Hunsicker Drive in Collegeville, had all charges kept against him during a preliminary hearing before District Judge Cathleen Kelly Rebar in district court on Aug. 29.
McCullough faces several criminal charges against him, including one count of Solicitation of Child Pornography, as was included by Montgomery County assistant district attorney Samantha Cauffman, captain of the , at the onset of the preliminary hearing.
Also, the Corruption of Minors charge was reduced to a misdemeanor of the first degree, due to the time-period during which the charge would have applied.
McCullough, 43, has been accused of an inappropriate relationship of a sexual nature with a former Methacton High School student, whom he taught since her freshman year.
According to a court document, McCullough was also charged with:
- Endangering Welfare of Children – Parent/Guardian/Other Commits Offense
- Disseminating Explicit Sexual Material of Minors
- Corruption of Minors
- Photograph/Film/Depict on Computer Sex Act – Child
- Possession of Child Pornography
- Sexual Abuse of Children – Possession of Child Pornography
- Criminal Use of Communication Facility
According to the court document, most of the charges against McCullough are felonies.
According to the preliminary hearing testimony of Lower Providence Detective Michael Jackson (the case’s lead investigator), McCullough and the female student had engaged in sexual activity through numerous e-mails, Facebook messages and text messages from a period of June 2010 to July 25, 2010.
The female student was a minor during the alleged sexual activities. The female student, now 20, graduated from Methacton H.S. in 2010.
In the affidavit of probable cause, the female student reportedly denied having any physical contact with McCullough, but reportedly admitted to engaging in intimate behavior over private Facebook and text messages while she was still 17 years old.
Also in an interview with Jackson, McCullough reportedly admitted to engaging in sexual activity, which he is said to have described as “sex chats” through Facebook messages, mutual masturbation, as well as exchanging of nude photographs, kissing and fondling one another, while the female student was still 17 years old.
During the preliminary hearing, Geday argued that the solicitation or dissemination of child pornography charge would not qualify, as the exchange of nude photos via a mobile device was hearsay, and would require original content. Furthermore, Geday challenged the Commonwealth’s charge of a sexual act of a child on photograph, film or as depicted on a computer, because no evidence has been produced to show that McCullough purposely directed the female student to provide such material.
“Does ‘depicted’ on a computer mean shown visually?” Geday asked, emphasizing that action on the computer was limited to “sex-chats.”
Rebar agreed that no evidence has been shown to indicate McCullough directed the female student to send the explicit material via a mobile device. But, she also said that photographs sent through a mobile device could be uploaded and viewed on a computer.
Rebar also said that such prohibited photos or film may not need apply, given the explicit nature of the Facebook messages and other texts.
“The evidence is very clear to me, in his Facebook messages, that he directed her to perform certain acts, and did them himself, and that he depicted them very descriptively in his text in his e-mails,” Rebar said. “There’s no question.”
Rebar further responded that the Commonwealth did not need to produce original content for a preliminary hearing. She also explained that the Commonwealth’s case is based on McCullough’s own statement to police, along with a “half-inch worth of e-mail” explicitly describing the sexual activities, as obtained by police via a search warrant.
At the end of the hearing, Rebar granted Geday’s request to limit McCullough’s restriction from Methacton High School to its grounds, as opposed to the previous 1-mile radius, as McCullough lives in reasonable proximity to the school and his offenses seem to be an isolated incident.
Geday also questioned if future contact would be permissible between McCullough and the female student. Per the bond arrangement, which was set at $50,000, McCullough is prohibited in initiating or receiving contact from the female student, including through third-party members, such as Facebook.
According to Cauffman, the female student has stated she has no desire to continue the relationship with McCullough at this time.
“He’s been this child’s teacher for all four years,” Cauffman said, during the preliminary hearing.
She described their previous mentor relationship as damaged.
“These chats are horrendous,” Cauffman said.
McCullough and those representing the female student, along with other involved parties at the preliminary hearing, were sequestered during Jackson’s testimony.
McCullough did not testify at the hearing. He is scheduld to be arraigned in county court on Oct. 10 and currently remains free after posting the required 10% of his $50,000 bail.