American music teacher pleads guilty in PH child porn case

Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 03 2020 12:54 AM | Updated as of Jul 03 2020 02:19 AM

An American music teacher accused of giving semen-tainted flutes to elementary school students has agreed to plead guilty to US state and federal charges involving various sex crimes against children, authorities said Wednesday.

John Edward Zeretzke, 61, of Ventura agreed to plead guilty to a federal charge of production of child pornography, along with 6 state counts of lewd or lascivious acts with minors under 14 years of age.

Zeretzke pleaded not guilty to the state charges in April 2019. 

The Orange County Register reported that state attorneys accused Zeretzke of recording himself ejaculating into flutes that were then distributed to 5 girls at elementary schools across Los Angeles and Orange counties. He then took photos of the girls using the flutes. 

Court records show the alleged violations occurred between January and April 2017.

Federal charges brought against Zeretzke in June 2018 included 5 counts of sex crimes against children. The Times reported in Sept. 2018 that none of the victims involved in the federal charges are local.

As part of the plea deal, the Central District of California agreed to dismiss all but one of the federal counts. Those dismissed charges may still be considered when Zeretzke is sentenced.

Zeretzke’s lawyer, federal defense attorney Julia Brett Deixler, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The plea agreement obtained by The Times details the federal charge to which Zeretzke agreed to plead guilty.

Between Dec. 2016 and Feb. 2017, the agreement says Zeretzke communicated with a girl under 16, expressing romantic interest in her. 

He sent money to her via relatives in the Philippines and asked for sexually explicit images of her. He also used his computer to capture sexually explicit images of her during a video chat.

Schools across the state opened their doors to Zeretzke for years as he taught music lessons to thousands of children. 

For more than 30 years, Zeretzke was a teaching artist for the Music Center of Los Angeles, during which he would share music lessons with students. The Times described one such lesson in 1998.

In 2009, Zeretzke founded Flutes Across the World, a nonprofit through which he contracted with schools to help children craft and decorate PVC pipe flutes. The nonprofit also participated in mission trips to share music lessons in countries such as Haiti, Honduras and the Philippines.

School children participating in the program would make 2 flutes: one for themselves and one for a child in need. 

In the latter, students would stuff kind messages to share with overseas peers. 

In 2017, officials warned parents in 7 California school districts of the potential contamination of flutes received by their children.

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