Ex-Pope John teacher pleads guilty

NEWTON. Michael Wagner, 41, enters a guilty plea to first-degree child endangerment and second-degree manufacturing of child sexual abuse.

Newton /
| 18 May 2024 | 10:30

Michael Wagner, 41, pleaded guilty May 10 in connection with charges that resulted from his illegal recording of students while he was teaching at Pope John XXIII Regional High School and Reverend George A. Brown Memorial School in Sparta.

Wagner entered a guilty plea to first-degree child endangerment and second-degree manufacturing of child sexual abuse before Judge Michael Gaus in Superior Court in Sussex County, acting Sussex County Prosecutor Carolyn Murray, Chief of Detectives Thomas McCormick and Sparta Police Chief Jeff McCarrick said.

The plea deal means he will forfeit his New Jersey teaching license.

Wagner is scheduled to be sentenced July 26.

A joint investigation by the Sparta Police Department Detective Bureau and Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Victims Unit and High Tech Crimes Unit began Oct. 12, 2022, when a teacher at Pope John overheard several eighth-grade female students talking about their teacher, Wagner, recording them during class.

Sparta police initially responded to the school. During their investigation, police found hundreds of videos and pictures of numerous students taken by Wagner, who would position the electronic device to capture and record their underclothing.

A forensic review of Wagner’s personal electronic devices found that he possessed, viewed or had under his control items depicting the sexual exploitation or abuse of children, according to a press release from the prosecutor’s office.

Guilty of assault

James Still, 39, of Fredon on May 14 pleaded guilty to simple assault in an incident that occurred Nov. 7, when he was an officer in the Hopatcong Borough Police Department.

Still was accused of using excessive force on a person arrested on a driving while intoxicated charge. When that person was brought to the police station for processing, Still grabbed his arm and hair and struck his head into a glass partition in the lobby of the station, causing injury to the face and head, according to his body-worn video.

The incident was reported to the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office, which started an investigation by its Department of Professional Standards, with the help of the Hopatcong Police Department.

As condition of the plea agreement, Still agreed to forfeit his employment with the Hopatcong Police Department and any future public employment.

Sentencing is scheduled June 28.

Sentenced for thefts

Kyle Tomasello, 45, of Sparta was sentenced May 3 to three years of probation and 30 days in the Morris County Correctional Facility.

He pay must pay restitution totaling $109,050 and $705 in fines and fees.

Tomasello was indicted on theft charges relating to a construction business he operated in the area. He admitted taking deposits from homeowners and not providing goods or services in 2022 and 2023.

The charges were filed after an investigation by the Byram, Sparta and Randolph Police Departments.