MORRISTOWN, NJ — A 34-year-old Morristown resident who has been heavily involved in the Livingston Soccer Club over the last several years and most recently served as a volunteer coach at Livingston High School in the fall of 2020 has been arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on charges of producing, possessing and mailing child pornography charge.
Steven Brooks, who was also previously employed at Livingston Public Schools (LPS) as a teacher and an instructional aide, currently teaches fifth grade at Washington Elementary School in Summit. According to Summit Superintendent of Schools Scott Hough, Brooks was "immediately placed on administrative leave" after the district was notified of his arrest on Tuesday.
"The incident is unrelated to the staff member’s employment with the board [of education]," he said in a statement issued to parents of Summit Public Schools students on Tuesday. "We have been advised by the FBI that incidents surrounding the allegations did not occur on school property or involve our students. We have been informed that the investigation is in preliminary stages, and we have not received any information to suggest that any of the allegations have impacted any of our students."
LPS Superintendent Dr. Matthew Block also released a statement notifying parents that there has been "very limited information" provided, but that the district is " fully cooperating with the FBI" as the investigation continues.
"Since being notified, the district has taken every precaution to ensure that this individual has no access to our facilities or technology," said Block. "We have also been in contact with the office of student protection of the New Jersey Department of Education. The safety and welfare of our students is of utmost concern."
In addition to his roles at LPS, Brooks became the youngest member of the Livingston Soccer Club Board of Trustees in 2010 and has previously earned the youth organization's annual Harold Shatz Referee Award.
Many Livingston parents were shocked by the news and have been vocal about his arrest on several social media outlets since late Tuesday afternoon.
Block encouraged any LPS students who have been impacted by this news to reach out to their counselors for support as needed.
In accordance with state law regarding public discussion of personnel matters, neither superintendent was able to comment further about Brooks' employment within the schools. However, both superintendents assured parents that the hiring practices used in their districts "are in accordance with state law and district policy" and that "all employees undergo extensive background checks, including fingerprinting, before their employment."
"There was no criminal history present in this employee’s comprehensive background check," he said of Brooks. "The safety of your children and our students is absolutely paramount to our entire school community, and we are appreciative to the FBI for immediately and proactively communicating this information to us."
According to United States Attorney Rachael Honig, Brooks has been charged with one count of production of child pornography, one count of possession of child pornography and one count of mailing child pornography. Documents filed in this case indicate officers conducted a legally authorized search of Brooks’ external hard drive after being notified about the possible existence of child pornography on the device.
The investigation revealed that Brooks used a fake online persona to solicit nude photos and videos from teenage victims. According to court documents, a video file found on his hard drive specifically showed Brooks' use of this fake persona to solicit a minor to send a video depicting him or her masturbating. Dozens of other images of child sexual abuse were also discovered.
The production of child pornography charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum of 30 years in prison. The possession of child pornography charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The mailing of child pornography charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison. Each charge also includes a maximum fine of $250,000.
Brooks was scheduled to appear by video conference today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cathy L. Waldor.
Attempts by TAPinto.net to contact the FBI in an effort to corroborate this report have not been returned at this time, as this is a developing story. More information will be shared as it becomes available.