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Ex-Wisconsin teacher gets 12 years for hidden cameras
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Ex-Wisconsin teacher gets 12 years for hidden cameras

A former Wisconsin high school teacher was sentenced Friday to 12 years in prison and 20 years of supervised release for hiding video cameras in student bathrooms during field trips.

Seventeen Madison East High School students, former students, parents and teachers addressed U.S. District Judge James Peterson during the four-hour sentencing hearing, nearly all fought back tears as they described the "manipulative" and "grooming" behavior of David Kruchten, 39, of Cottage Grove, Wisconsin. Many asked Peterson to hand down 20 years in prison, the maximum sentence.

David M. Kruchten


“I have no doubt in my mind he was actually grooming the girls he wanted to see on camera,” a parent of one of the victims said, her voice heavy with emotion, during the hearing.

Some of the victims said they were as young as 14 years old the first time they went on an overnight field trip with Kruchten. Most said their lives had changed dramatically since the December 2019 discovery.

“I have no sense of privacy even in my own home,” one, who also babysat for Kruchten, said.

A number of victims also said they struggled with feelings of guilt, anxiety and depression. Some said they attended as many as eight overnight field trips with Kruchten. One said, since the discovery, she found herself in a public bathroom taking apart an air freshener to see if a camera was inside, amid an anxiety attack.

“These past two years have been impossible to get through,” another victim said. “(Kruchten) made me feel like I was no longer human.”

A plea agreement under which Kruchten pleaded guilty in August to attempting to produce child pornography states that all students who have been on trips chaperoned by Kruchten since 2016 are considered victims and have the right to be heard before he is sentenced. Under the plea agreement, Peterson said there were roughly 137 victims.

Victim impact statements, all filed under seal, poured into Kruchten’s court file ahead of Friday’s sentencing hearing. Peterson said he lost count of how many there were but estimated at least a couple of dozen.

Kruchten faced a sentence of anywhere from six to 20 years in prison, according to the agreement. His attorney, federal defender Joseph Bugni, wrote in a sentencing memorandum he will seek a six-year sentence ahead of Friday’s hearing. The prosecution, assistant U.S. Attorneys Elizabeth Altman and Laura Przybylinski Finn asked in their memorandum for a 15-year sentence.

Prior to his sentencing in U.S. District Court, Kruchten, wrote that his obsession with spying on people didn't begin with his students, but it ended there after starting with family and friends, including his wife, parents and grandparents.

Kruchten was arrested in Minneapolis in December 2019 after a student discovered a camera hidden in a hotel room bathroom air freshener. Other students then looked around and found cameras hidden in air fresheners, smoke detectors and other devices.

A subsequent Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation probe found recording devices had been placed in students' hotel rooms during other trips, to Wisconsin Dells and Lake Geneva, before the Minneapolis trip.

This story will be updated.



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