PHILADELPHIA — Former Phoenixville Middle School Principal Troy Czukoski entered an open guilty plea Friday in U.S. Federal Court to one count of possession of child pornography.
It was the second time in a month that Czukoski, 43, had appeared before U.S. District Judge Legrome D. Davis to tender the plea. Davis told the former educator to take some additional time after he heard hesitation in Czukoski’s voice during an April 18 hearing.
At that hearing, Czukoski said he admitted to possessing materials “considered to be child pornography,” but there was no such splitting of hairs Friday.
“I am guilty of possessing child pornography,” he told the judge. “I possessed a couple of videos and a photograph that depicted lascivious images (of minors).”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Rotella said Czukoski possessed well more than “a couple” of images, however. Investigators from the U.S. Postal Service who seized two flash drives, CDs and DVDs from Czukoski’s Exton home found between 150 and 300 sexually explicit images of young boys in their underwear, swim trunks or in the nude, she said, many of whom had previously been identified by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Czukoski had served as a principal in the Rose Tree Media School District for just 14 weeks before his resignation in March, shortly before the criminal information was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. He had previously worked as principal and administrator at the Phoenixville Middle School in Chester County.
Rose Tree Media Superintendent James Wigo said the district has no evidence of Czukoski ever mistreating a child in the district.
Rotella said law enforcement first became aware of Czukoski after serving a search warrant on a Web site selling child pornography DVDs in May 2011. Czukoski appeared in a customer database as having placed 13 orders totaling 49 DVDs and CDs.
When authorities executed a search warrant at Czukoski’s Chester County home on Oct. 18, 2012, Rotella said he admitted to possessing the illegal materials and led investigators to a hiding place in the back of his attic.
Czukoski, who is married with three children aged 7 to 12 years old, is a graduate of West Chester Henderson High School and has 20 years of education experience, including earning his Ph.D. in educational philosophy. He also served in the U.S. Army and the Pennsylvania National Guard.
Defense Attorney Joseph Green Jr. said in a release at the time charges were filed that Czukoski is also an adult survivor of childhood sex abuse who had collected images depicting adolescent boys over the last four years.
Davis walked Czukoski through his plea Friday, ensuring the former educator understood all of the rights he was giving up. There was no hesitation on Czukoski’s part as he answered each of the judge’s questions.
Czukoski also told the judge he takes a number of medications for hypertension, hyperthyroidism, blood pressure, depression and anxiety, none of which affect his ability to enter a knowing and voluntary plea.
Satisfied, Davis accepted the plea and set sentencing for August 12 pending a presentence investigation. Czukoski faces a maximum 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, as well as a five year mandatory minimum registration as a sexual offender, which could be extended to a lifetime.
Czukoski remains free on $50,000 unsecured bail under certain conditions, such as the installation of monitoring equipment on computers and having no unsupervised contact with children not related to him.
Delaware County Daily Times staff reporter Cindy Scharr contributed to this report.