CHILD PORN SUSPICIONS ARE PROBED IN CASE OF MAN ACCUSED OF ABUSE
Author: MEG NUGENT
It was revealed yesterday that a Maplewood man accused of the repeated sexual assault of an adopted son from the Dominican Republic is also suspected of being involved in the production and manufacturing of child pornography.
Essex County Prosecutor Clifford Minor said officials are also investigating whether Stephen Pratt, 42, of Hughes Street, who teaches physical education at a prestigious private school in Manhattan, had contacted some type of "organization" which gave him access to the alleged victim, as well as "any other" victims.
Minor said investigators "believe there may be other abuses of other youngsters from the Dominican Republic," adding that the probe was continuing and investigators were exploring the possibility of the existence of a "ring." Pratt, a teacher at the Friends Seminary for 20 years, is accused of assaulting the adopted son, now 21, beginning in November 1983, when the youth was 12 and brought by the suspect to Jersey City.
The assaults continued until April 14, 1989, according to the prosecutor's office.
The alleged victim was adopted by Pratt in 1986, three years after the abuses reputedly began and the same year Pratt moved from Jersey City to Maplewood.
An investigtion that led to Pratt's arrest Wednesday began when the alleged victim, who now has a family of his own and resides in Essex County, told authorities about the sexual attacks.
The male left Pratt's home in 1990, married and is a father.
Pratt, who has no prior criminal record, is charged with eight counts of aggravated sexual assault, four counts of sexual assault and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
During a hearing yesterday in the central judicial processing court in Newark, Judge Alison Brown Jones set bail at $200,000 bond for the grey-haired defendant, who is single and has no other children.
She also ordered Pratt to refrain from contacting the adopted son.
Belleville attorney William Colavito, who represented Pratt, had requested a bail of $10,000. He told the judge there was no chance Pratt would flee, noting his client had a job and was a homeowner.
But Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Patricia Kotyk-Zalisko contended, "I disagree, highly, that there is no risk of flight."
She said investigators discovered Pratt had purchased two tickets to Costa Rica on a flight scheduled for later this month.
The assistant prosecutor also asked that Pratt be barred from contacting two other individuals who were identified only by their initials. But Jones denied the request on the grounds that the individuals were not part of the formal charges against Pratt.
In comments made after the court hearing, Minor said investigators found evidence of child pornography in Pratt's home but did not elaborate.
He also said the prosecutor's office would be contacting New York authorities to provide them with access to the investigation.