CHICAGO » A former music teacher at a Chicago elementary school is accused of placing a camera under the sink of a public bathroom, just down from his classroom, and recording at least one child who was his student.
Elliott Nott, 41, was charged with seven felony counts of unauthorized videotaping and one felony count of child pornography two weeks after the camera was discovered in the third-floor bathroom of the Ogden International School on the city’s Near North Side.
Nott used putty to attach a motion-activated camera under a sink in the bathroom. A search of the camera turned up “multiple images and videos” of school staff using the bathroom, as well as an 8-year-old boy, prosecutors said.
The boy had been Nott’s student for two years and had special permission to use that bathroom, something Nott knew, according to Assistant State’s Attorney Melissa Howlett.
The camera’s existence came to light Sept. 7 when an employee found the small black device with a lens and red blinking light on the bathroom floor. The camera was turned over to police, Howlett said.
About two days later, Nott checked himself in at Swedish Covenant Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation, Howlett said. Nott made a statement to a hospital social worker, who in turn notified police and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, according to the prosecutor.
Authorities got a search warrant for Nott’s home and seized a computer, two cellphones and other electronic media for forensic analysis, Howlett said. Police also took clothing from Nott’s home that matched clothing partially seen on the video as it was being placed under the sink in the bathroom, she said.
Nott was dismissed from the school, Ogden Principal Michael Beyer said.
Nott was hired in 2009 at Ogden to teach music to students in kindergarten through fifth grade and to coach track, according to an online biography. He studied voice and choral directing at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, where Nott’s father was a professor, and has taught at schools in New Hampshire, New York, Tennessee and Minnesota.
Nott also coached track and field at Lane Tech High School from 2008 through 2010, according to his biography.
In an email to parents Friday, Beyer said police have “been in contact with all of the individuals who have been impacted by this incident and those individuals have been made aware.”
Beyer included some guidelines to help children cope with the incident.
“Parents and school staff should reassure the child’s safety, especially at school,” he wrote. “Children should know that they are in a safe place where they can trust the adults in their presence. Again, reassure them that Ogden took immediate steps to ensure the safety of students and staff in the building and will continue to make efforts to keep our school safe.”
Chicago Public Schools officials had no immediate comment on what background checks were made on Nott.
Nott is married and has two young children, 3 and 4. His wife, who teaches cello, sat in the spectator’s gallery during a bond hearing Friday afternoon.
“I will have no comment,” she told reporters.
Before the hearing began, she sat with her head in her hands.
Nott’s attorney, Gigi Gilbert, said her client had been the family’s primary breadwinner before he was fired from Ogden. He said Nott’s wife was standing behind her husband.
“These are serious allegations. We’re aware of that, but hopefully the public will remember that he’s innocent until proven guilty,” said Mark Basile, another attorney for Nott. He and Gilbert said Nott has no criminal background.
Nott was a standout track star for Normal Community High School during the 1990s, winning the 1993 Class AA state 1,600 meters in 4:16.52. He was a former music director of the Broadway United Methodist Church in Lakeview, leaving in 2009, according to the church’s pastor, the Rev. Alka Lyall.
Though Lyall has only been with the church for a year, she said many church members, including choir members, were stunned at news of Nott’s arrest.
“Feelings here are just raw and people are hurting,” she said. “There’s a lot of disbelief and shock.”
Nott belongs to a bluegrass band called The Reclaimers and also plays in a church band in Skokie, according to his biography.
Judge Maria Kuriakos Ciesil ordered Nott held on $75,000 bail. If he makes bond and is released from jail, he cannot have contact with any alleged victims and must surrender his passport.
©2016 Chicago Tribune