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Already jailed on charges of sexual assault and distributing child pornography, former North Shore educator Mathew J. Laird is facing additional child pornography charges after more victims came forward, Assistant State’s Attorney Andreana Turano said in court Tuesday, Oct. 30.
The pending charges arose after several people identified themselves to police as the individuals shown in pornographic images and videos found on Laird’s phone during a police search of his home in September, Turano said, indicating some were current or former students at North Shore Academy in Highland Park.
Laird, 32, of the 3900 block of Triumvera Drive in Glenview, was arrested Tuesday, Oct. 23, at his home and charged with criminal sexual assault — position of authority; criminal sexual assault — nonconsensual; dissemination of child pornography — under 13 years; possession of child pornography — under 13 years; and nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images. Laird faces up to 120 years in prison if convicted on all five felony charges.
When police searched Laird’s phone, they discovered he was researching international extradition laws and shopping for airline tickets, Turano told Judge Anijana M.J. Hansen Tuesday, Oct. 30, at the Cook County Second District Courthouse in Skokie.
Among the entries police found in the search history of Laird’s phone was one that read: “What countries do not extradite for child porn?” Turano said, adding Laird poses a “real and present threat” to the community.
Laird was also in the process of selling his personal items online when police searched his home, Turano said.
Ralph Meczyk, Laird’s attorney, disputed that Laird is a threat to the community and said he had ample time and opportunity to leave town before police filed the five felony charges against him but remained in the area.
Meczyk told the court Laird was ready to post “a very, very substantial” bond using his savings, which amount to between $40,000 and $50,000.
After hearing Turano’s description of the pending additional child pornography charges, Hansen set Laird’s bail at $750,000 — $500,000 for the three child pornography charges he is facing and $250,000 for Laird’s two sexual assault charges.
Laird will have to post $75,000 to be released from the Cook County Jail, where he has been held since his arrest on Oct. 24. Laird would be placed on electronic home-monitoring if released on bail.
Laird’s bail conditions include surrendering his passport and any firearms, as well as having no contact with any of his alleged victims and anyone under the age of 18. Upon his release, Laird would also be banned from using the internet, Hansen said.
“I’m gratified that Her Honor, Judge Hansen, admitted him to bail,” Meczyk said, adding he did not know if Laird would be able to post $75,000 to secure his release on bail.
At Laird’s initial court appearance the day after his arrest, Turano detailed the Glenview Police Department’s search of his home in September, during which authorities found “several hundred images both pornographic and non-pornographic of current and former female high school students,” as well as videos of a similar nature.
Police have said they are working to identify the students shown in those images and videos.
Among the pornographic materials discovered at Laird’s home were videos of adults engaging in sexual activity with children as young as 3 years old, Turano said.
Glenview Police detectives who work on the Cook County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force launched an investigation into Laird after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children notified them that a user of an adult-pornography website was uploading child pornography onto the site.
Sexual assault charges
Turano also detailed the sexaul assault charges against Laird at his initial Oct. 24 bond hearing.
According to Turano, a young woman whom Laird coached recently reported to authorities that Laird sexually assault her in late 2012 or early 2013 after a night of studying for college exams.
Turano said the woman told police she fell asleep that night and awoke to Laird groping and raping her. He continued to assault her after she woke up and told him to stop, Turano said.
During the search of Laird’s home, police discovered Laird videotaped a portion of the alleged assault and uploaded it to an adult-pornography website without the woman’s consent.
Laird allegedly started a “sexual relationship” in 2011 of 2012 with the then-juvenile female student at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, where Laird taught English from 2011 to 2014, Turano said.
Teaching, coaching career
Laird has a long history of working with students and schools throughout the North Shore.
Most recently, Laird served as a teacher at North Shore Academy in Highland Park from the fall of 2017 until Sept. 18 of this year, when Glenview police notified the North Shore Special Education District of its ongoing investigation into Laird for “alleged internet crimes against children.”
Laird also served as an assistant coach during the 2016-17 season for the quiz bowl team at Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, according to a Quizbowl Wiki page in his name.
In addition to his teaching stint at Loyola Academy, Laird also served as a scholastic bowl moderator at the school from 2004 to 2008 and from 2010 to 2014, Loyola Academy President Patrick McGrath and Principal Charles Heintz said in an email to alumni Oct. 2.
Laird also served as principal co-founder of Aegis Questions, a question-writing company that operated between 2005 and 2009, according to the Quizbowl Wiki page.
After leaving Loyola Academy in 2014, Laird worked as a question-writer for National Academic Quiz Tournaments LLC for about nine months, from Sept. 24, 2014, until the summer of 2015.
Before his arrest, Laird was employed by Amazon, said Meczyk, Laird’s defense attorney.
Laird is scheduled to be back in court at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 13.