You are here
Mathew J. Laird, a former teacher at several North Shore schools, was denied bail Wednesday, Oct. 24, at the Cook County Second District Courthouse in Skokie, after his arrest the day before on criminal sexual assault and aggravated child pornography charges.
Laird, 32, of the 3900 block of Triumvera Drive in Glenview, was arrested at 12:17 p.m. 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, according to court records.
At Laird’s initial court appearance Wednesday, Oct. 24, Assistant State’s Attorney Andreana Turano said Laird faces up to 120 years in prison if convicted on all five felony charges.
Turano told Judge Anijana M.J. Hansen that police discovered hundreds of pornographic images and videos of minors, some of whom were as young as 3 years old, during a search of Laird’s home in the village in September.
The prosecutor also detailed an alleged illicit relationship and sexual assault of a former high school student whom Laird coached.
Laird’s attorney, Ralph Meczyk, of Chicago, said his client “vehemently denies” any wrongdoing.
“My client ... will defend himself vigorously against this baseless complaint,” Meczyk said after the hearing. “We are confident that when the evidence is presented in this case, Mr. Laird will be fully vindicated from these false and outrageous accusations against him.”
‘Sexual relationship’ with a student
According to Turano, a young woman recently reported to authorities that Laird sexually assaulted 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 pornographic website without the woman’s consent.
Laird allegedly started a "sexual relationship" in 2011 or 2012 with the then-juvenile female student at Loyola Academy in Wilmette, where he taught English from 2011 to 2014, Turano said.
Turano added that Laird and the student engaged in sexual intercourse multiple times — both at private homes and on school property — over the course of the relationship before the student graduated, and in many cases, Laird also provided alcohol to the student.
‘Several hundred images’ of child pornography
Glenview Police detectives who served on the Cook County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force launched a criminal investigation into “alleged internet crimes against children” committed by Laird after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children notified them that an adult-pornography website user in Glenview was uploading child pornography onto the site.
Detectives on the task force identified Laird through his IP address, leading them to his Glenview home on Triumvera Drive, Turano said.
According to a Glenview Police news release authorities searched Laird’s home in September and seized multiple electronic devices on which the detectives discovered “several hundred images both pornographic and non-pornographic of current and former female high school students,” as well as videos of a similar nature.
Glenview police said they are working to identify the students shown in the images and videos found at Laird’s residence.
Among the pornographic materials discovered at Laird’s home were videos of adults engaging in sexual activity with children as young as 3 and 4 years old, Turano said.
Teaching, coaching career
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 an ongoing criminal investigation into Laird for alleged internet crimes against children.
According to Turano, he also recently was a moderator for a scholastic club at Stevenson High School.
In early October, NSSED Superintendent Kurt Schneider said the district immediately placed Laird on administrative leave after the notification.
Schneider confirmed Laird was fired by the district on Oct. 10 because he refused to cooperate with NSSED’s internal investigation into the allegations.
“We have no confirmation at this time that any North Shore Academy students are involved in this,” Schneider said in a statement Wednesday, Oct. 24. “From the minute we learned of this investigation, we have worked closely to provide computers, photos, personnel files, etc., to aid the police.”
Laird taught English at Loyola Academy in Wilmette from 2011 to 2014 and 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 on Oct. 2.
Laird also served as principal co-founder of Aegis Questions, a question-writing company that operated between 2005 and 2009, according to a Quizbowl Wiki page in his name.
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.
NAQT President Robert Hentzel said Laird had no direct contact with children in his paid role with the company, but he did have contact with children while serving as a volunteer for some of NAQT’s national championships.
As a volunteer, the majority of Laird’s work involved reading questions to students, and on some occasions, he also interviewed students for NAQT’s social media channels, Hentzel said.
Laird’s duties “never included being alone with minors,” as he worked in public areas of hotels and schools with players and their chaperones, Hentzel said, adding officials at the company “are now dismayed by having asked him to volunteer at our events.”
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 the Quizbowl Wiki page.
Before his arrest, Laird was employed by Amazon, said Meczyk, Laird’s defense attorney.
Laird is scheduled to back in court at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 30, for another bond hearing.
Additional reporting by Erin Yarnall, Contributing Editor