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Press Release

Former Madison High School Teacher Sentenced to 12 Years for Secretly Filming Students

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Wisconsin

MADISON, WIS. – Timothy M. O’Shea, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin, and Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul announced that David M. Kruchten, 39, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge James Peterson to 12 years in federal prison for attempting to produce obscene depictions of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct and transporting minors in interstate commerce with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct.  This term of imprisonment is to be followed by 20 years of supervised release.  Kruchten pleaded guilty to these charges on August 16, 2021.

On December 6, 2019, a group of students went to Minneapolis on a school trip arranged by Kruchten.  The trip was associated with a school organization and the defendant was one of their advisors and accompanied them on the trip.  That evening, one of the students pressed down on an air freshener on the bathroom counter of her hotel room.  When she pressed it, the device opened up and was revealed to be a surveillance camera. 

After the discovery of the first device, the students started going through their rooms and found additional air fresheners, a smoke detector, two alarm clocks, and several thermostats that were all surveillance devices.  Trusting Kruchten, the students turned over all the devices to him that night.  He was later seen on hotel video appearing to dispose of the devices in trash cans around the hotel. Kruchten lied to authorities and said he gave the devices to a security guard at the hotel.

During the course of the investigation, multiple students provided pictures and videos that they had taken in their hotel rooms during school trips to the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells and the Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva. In the photos provided, multiple air freshener type-devices are visible on the bathroom countertops.  In the same photos, digital clocks, thermostats, and tissue boxes that were actually recording devices are also visible.  The devices could be seen on the counter, on the toilet, and on the wall. 

Kruchten used his personal credit card to reserve a suite at the Kalahari Resort in the Wisconsin Dells for trips in 2018 and 2019.  He also determined which of the students stayed in this upgraded room.  The photos and videos provided to law enforcement by the minors who stayed in the upgraded rooms showed numerous recording devices in each bathroom of the suite.   He also rented a room at another Wisconsin resort for a babysitter.  Photos she took of the bathroom also showed multiple recording devices in the bathroom.

At sentencing, numerous victims and their parents told the Court how Kruchten’s crimes had affected them and their families.  Victims reported betrayal, sadness, and anger.  Some reported fear showering in hotels and checking air fresheners in public bathrooms to ensure they were not recording devices.  Parents also reported betrayal and guilt for allowing their children to go on trips with the defendant.

Judge Peterson thanked the victims and families for their courage and for letting him know through their statements how much the crime impacted the victims, their families, and the community. Judge Peterson also told the victims that the defendant took advantage of their good qualities and that they were not at fault.

In sentencing the defendant, Judge Peterson found Kruchten engaged in “sustained and masterful manipulation” and exploited the fact that he was a beloved teacher.  Judge Peterson also found that the defendant was either lying to the Court or self-delusional in denying that his crime was sexually motivated. 

The charges against Kruchten were the result of an investigation conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation, the Minneapolis Police Department, and the Cottage Grove Police Department, with assistance from the Wisconsin Attorney General’s Office.   Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elizabeth Altman and Laura Przybylinski Finn prosecuted this case. 

Updated October 22, 2021

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