Former substitute headed to jail

Teacher pleads guilty to inappropriate touching, gets 20-day sentence

 
 
Published: 12/18/2007 12:18 AM

A former substitute teacher in Naperville will be spending this Christmas behind bars after being sentenced Monday for inappropriately touching a male student.

Brett J. Zagorac, 24, of Munster, Ind., pleaded guilty in October to a misdemeanor battery charge in exchange for prosecutors dropping 25 similar counts stemming from at least 13 incidents involving DuPage County elementary school students. He taught in Naperville, Downers Grove and Hinsdale, authorities said.

DuPage Associate Judge Cary Pierce sentenced Zagorac to 20 days in the county jail and two years probation in exchange for the guilty plea. He will have to spend at least 10 days in jail, which gets him out on Dec. 26.

"You'll be away from your beloved family during the holidays," Pierce said after sentencing Zagorac. "Say goodbye to your mom, and (the deputy) will take you into custody."

He won't have to register as a sex offender, however.

Assistant DuPage County State's Attorney Jeff Muntz asked the judge to require a sex offender evaluation. Pierce required counseling as part of his probation.

Muntz said Zagorac was accused by "no less than 13" boys who said the substitute teacher touched their backs under their shirts.

"A second-grader described it as 'pretty creepy,'" Muntz said. "That came from a second-grader, describing it as creepy."

A family friend and Zagorac's mother testified on his behalf at the sentencing hearing. Zagorac himself quietly asked the judge for leniency.

"I know now you have to be mindful of your conduct," he said. "I am a good person."

Zagorac taught in DuPage County schools from January to March 2005. The children who accused him were between the ages of 5 and 9, police said.

He had been accused of similar conduct in Indiana as far back as 2002, prosecutors said. He was brought up on charges of sexually touching a young boy in one case there, but the boy refused to testify against Zagorac.

"The boy saw him walk down the hall at the courthouse the day of the trial and broke down," said Michelle Weaver, a detective with the Lake County, Indiana sheriff's office.

Weaver was called to testify about the accusations he faced in Indiana. Accusations Pierce said he wouldn't have allowed during a trial, but did allow during the sentencing phase.

She told Pierce about the boys who had accused Zagorac of similar bare-back touching in classrooms there. She testified that school administrators had warned him about the contact, but Zagorac quit those jobs before being fired.

She also testified about his recent activities attempting to find work as a nanny or baby-sitter through online sites. Several of those sites blocked Zagorac's access after some users complained about his aggressive behavior, Weaver said.