ELYRIA — The Columbia Schools teacher accused of sending topless photos of herself to the son of a man who then allegedly tried to blackmail her was formally charged Monday with disseminating matter harmful to juveniles.
Michelle Kazmierczak, 46, could get up to six months in jail if convicted of the misdemeanor charge.
Columbia Schools Superintendent Graig Bansek said Monday that Kazmierczak has been suspended with pay from her job teaching fifth-grade science at Columbia Middle School pending the outcome of an investigation.
Tyrone Price, the man who allegedly tried to blackmail Kazmierczak, was indicted last week on two counts of extortion.
Price’s attorney, Mike Duff, has denied his client was trying to extort the teacher, whose daughter was dating his son. He accused Kazmierczak of making up the allegation in an effort to get herself out of trouble.
According to Lorain County sheriff’s deputies, the boy, who Duff said was in 8th grade at the time the photos were sent, made comments to Kazmierczak comparing her to her daughter. That prompted the teacher to forward first photos of herself in a bra and later of herself topless to Price’s son, who attended a different school district.
Detective Mike Lopez said last week that Price, who was under investigation by Amherst police for embezzling money from the Amherst Youth Football Association when the blackmail allegedly occurred, found the photos and began trying to extort Kazmierczak via phone calls and text messages.
Price allegedly demanded an Xbox and, when Kazmierczak said she couldn’t do that because her husband would find out, cash. At one point he demanded she sell her wedding ring or claim to lose the stone and get an insurance payout to give to him, Lopez has said.
Kazmierczak eventually contacted deputies about the extortion and her attorney, Kenneth Lieux, said last week that she was cooperating with the investigation. Lieux said his client was a victim in the case.
Price, 38, was placed in a court-run diversion program over the objections of prosecutors last month. He had pleaded guilty to theft and misuse of credit cards, but those charges would be dropped if he successfully completed the program.
He also had to repay $23,556 he stole from the football league that he served as president of between 2006 and his resignation in May 2010. Duff contends that Price was a sloppy bookkeeper and never intended to steal any money.
Kazmierczak is due in Elyria Municipal Court next week, according to court records.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or email@example.com.