A Lebanon man faces a dozen felony charges following an investigation by the Lebanon County Detective Bureau.
Lebanon County District Attorney Pier Hess Graf announced this morning that 23-year-old Andrew Eberhart had been arrested for charges related to the solicitation and possession of explicit material from minors.
Eberhart was arraigned today in front of District Justice Anthony J. Verna.
Eberhart now waits at Lebanon County Correctional Facility unable to post bail, set at $100,000. He faces one count of child pornography, five counts of knowingly or permitting a sex act involving a child, five counts of criminal use of a communication facility, one count of corruption of minors, and one count of criminal solicitation.
The affidavit states that the investigation began on Sept. 17, 2019, when the Manheim Township Police Department was contacted by the parent of a 13-year-old boy concerning inappropriate images sent to the child by an unknown person on Instagram, who went by the handle of jordynmatter.
According to the affidavit, over the period from June 28, 2019 to Sept. 8, 2019, the account requested the juvenile to take naked photographs and videos of himself engaging in explicit sexual acts and send them to the user.
A court order to Instagram (owned by Facebook) revealed the Instagram account was associated with the email account email@example.com. The affidavit states that using IP addresses obtained from Instagram and Verizon, detectives were able to associate them with specific ISP accounts, with Comcast and Verizon providing a subscriber’s address on the 1000 block of Challenge Drive in South Lebanon Township.
On Jan. 22, a task force of Lancaster County and Lebanon County police officers served a search warrant on the residence for all computers, mobile phones, and digital storage devices located there. The affidavit states that police located images and videos depicting young white males engaging in sexual acts when searching the defendant’s iPhones. Eberhart was interviewed on Jan. 22 regarding the images and was said to have admitted to having child pornography on his mobile phones and computer, and was said to have acknowledged creating the Instagram account and Yahoo email address.
According to the affidavit, the man further admitted that “he had engaged in ongoing contact with numerous young male victims” since approximately 2017 and that several of the victims were from the Cornwall Lebanon School District, namely the middle school and high school.
The statement from the District Attorney’s office describes the accounts as “relentless” in requests for photos, and would send nude female pictures to elicit a response.
The affidavit states that Eberhart had previously attended these schools and was a volunteer basketball coach for the district until recently. Eberhart was said to have verified that he knew the victims were as young as 12 years old and they were all minors.
With the assistance of Cornwall Lebanon School District administration, seven juveniles ages 11-17 were identified as possible victims.
The affidavit states that interviews were conducted, upon the parents’ consent, with six of the juveniles between Feb. 24 and Feb. 27. Three acknowledged being contacted by the jordynmatter account, two identified another account of “maciejefferson12,” and another said that both accounts contacted them. The affidavit does not state whether the seventh identified juvenile had not been contacted by Eberhart or if they did not consent to be interviewed. Six victims are listed with the charges on the affidavit.
The juveniles denied having ever met Eberhart in person or being contacted by him outside of the Instagram profiles.
“Solicitors and possessors of child pornography prey upon the innocence of our children,” said DA Hess Graf in a release. “These individuals victimize very young children for their own devices. I take the protection of our children and our community seriously, and we will prosecute this case vigorously.”
“These types of investigations are difficult. I commend the law enforcement agencies involved on their diligent work and their efforts to fight for the victims.”
Cornwall-Lebanon School District issued the following statement.
STATEMENT FROM CORNWALL-LEBANON SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT
Cornwall-Lebanon School District has hundreds of individuals who serve as volunteers and chaperones assisting students and teachers on a daily basis. All of these volunteers have completed thorough background checks in order to be permitted by law to interact with students in a school setting or during District events and activities. We are grateful for their contributions to student success.
On January 22, 2020, Cornwall-Lebanon School District was informed of a criminal investigation involving Andrew Eberhart who served as a volunteer in our District. Mr. Eberhart’s volunteer status was revoked immediately. As this is an ongoing criminal matter, we cannot comment further on the situation. The District will continue to cooperate fully with the local authorities.
“We appreciate the efforts of the District Attorneys’ Office and County Detectives and their commitment to protecting our children. We share that commitment. This is a very disturbing matter that has an impact on the entire CLSD community,” Superintendent Philip Domencic said. “Our school counselors are available to all students and adults in our schools.”
Palmyra Area School District Superintendent Dr. Bernie Kepler also issued a statement.
On Wednesday morning, January 22, 2020, the Palmyra Area School District was shocked to learn that an active criminal investigation was being conducted involving Andrew Eberhart, teacher at Palmyra Area Middle School. Upon receiving the notification, the school district has been cooperating fully with the law enforcement investigation. Mr. Eberhart was immediately placed on administrative leave.
It is our understanding that Andrew Eberhart was taken into custody earlier today, Monday, March 2, 2020.
Further questions regarding the investigation and/or related criminal charges should be directed to the law enforcement agency(ies) conducting the investigation. To the best of our knowledge, the victims of Mr. Eberhart’s actions were not students of the Palmyra Area School District.
The Palmyra Area School District conducts thorough background checks on all employees; including Pennsylvania State Police Clearance, Pennsylvania Child Abuse Clearance and an FBI Federal Criminal History Clearance. Individuals, at the time of potential hire, who have violations that preclude them from employment are not considered as candidates. Mr. Eberhart, at the time of hire, had clearances that made him eligible for employment.
According to a FOX-43 report, Eberhart is a former standout basketball player at Cedar Crest and Lebanon Valley College.
Eberhart has a preliminary hearing scheduled for March 12 at 8:00 a.m. in front of District Justice Verna.