Alleged sexually explicit texts key evidence in case involving Basalt High School teacher
Sexually explicit texts allegedly sent by Basalt High School teacher Brittany von Stein to one of her students advanced a police investigation that resulted in an arrest Wednesday, according to a court document.
Von Stein, 26, the music teacher and choir director at Basalt High School, allegedly was sexting with the student while he was hanging out with friends one night, according to an affidavit for an arrest warrant for von Stein. The student fell asleep and his friends read the texts, said the affidavit filed by Thomas Wright, a school resource police officer with Basalt Police Department. The date that the boys spent the night together wasn’t revealed. The affidavit said it was the same day as a memorial service for a student at Basalt High School.
One of the boys told Wright about the texts on Aug. 29. That juvenile “said they saw messages from Ms. von Stein talking about kissing and sex,” Wright’s affidavit said. “(The source) said the next morning, the entire group confronted (the student). (He) admitted that the texts were from Ms. von Stein. He further admitted to having an ongoing sexual relationship with Ms. von Stein.”
The alleged victim asked the other boys to “keep it a secret,” the affidavit said.
Wright’s affidavit said he disclosed the apparent existence of the texts to a prosecutor and they made plans to obtain a search warrant to confiscate the victim’s smartphone.
The iPhone proved to be a turning point in the investigation. Wright wrote that the investigation began earlier, on Aug. 14, but the alleged victim repeatedly denied having sex with von Stein.
The investigation began when Basalt High School Principal Peter Mueller and Roaring Fork School District Superintendent Rob Stein called Basalt officers to report that von Stein had disclosed to them that one of her students, a juvenile male, had kissed her during a private vocal lesson.
“Ms. von Stein reported this incident occurred at the Basalt High School sometime in January,” the affidavit said. “Ms. von Stein disclosed she had been hearing rumors accusing her of having sex with (the student).”
The school administrators requested an investigation into the matter as soon as possible.
Wright wrote that he started his investigation the next day. Aug. 15, with an interview of the student. His workload at school required him to have private vocal lessons with von Stein.
“(The student) said that during one of those private lessons, he kissed Ms. von Stein,” the affidavit said. “He said she told him that no one could ever know that happened; it would have to be their secret.”
The student acknowledged he flirted with von Stein via texts and although she didn’t flirt back initially, she eventually became “very personal with him through text.”
The student told Wright there were rumors he was having sex with von Stein, but that it wasn’t true. He admitted he might have bragged to friends while intoxicated about having sex with her.
“I asked (the student) if he was still communicating with Ms. von Stein via text. He said yes,” the affidavit said. “He said he even warned her that he had told his parents they kissed. (The student) said Ms. von Stein text(ed) him back saying she would have to tell the principals.”
Wright also spoke to the mother of the student and learned a friend of hers warned her that her son was having sex with the teacher. The mother said she confronted her son but he said he and von Stein had only kissed.
Wright said he arranged for the student to be interviewed at River Bridge, a child advocacy center in Glenwood Springs. At that interview, the student also denied having sex with von Stein.
Wright learned on the same day that the student’s friends had seen the alleged texts from von Stein and had confronted him. Wright was able to obtain the student’s phone from his mother.
On Aug. 30, the student met with Wright at Basalt High School and asked if could have his phone back if he told Wright “what really happened between him and Ms. von Stein.” Wright said that prosecutors would have to make the decision about the phone but he asked the student to tell him the truth anyway.
“(The student) explained in detail that he had been having an ongoing sexual relationship with Ms. von Stein” in January and February 2019, the affidavit said. “(The student) said all of the sexual contact with Ms. von Stein occurred at her home” in Carbondale.
“I was able to document at least three separate encounters that (the student) said von Stein had sexual intercourse with him,” Wright’s affidavit said.
The student said his phone contained texts that detailed their sexual relationship.
On Aug. 30, Wright interviewed three additional students who confirmed they saw texts from von Stein to their friend on the night they were all together and he fell asleep. They allegedly confirmed that they confronted the student and he fessed up about the relationship.
Basalt Police Department filed for the arrest warrant on Tuesday. Pitkin County District Judge Chris Seldin signed it Wednesday. Law enforcement officials also obtained a search warrant for von Stein’s home in Carbondale. Basalt and Carbondale police officers and an investigator with the 9th Judicial District Attorney’s Office went to the house Wednesday afternoon. Von Stein was arrested on three counts of sexual assault on a child by one in a position of trust, a Class 3 felony. She was taken to Garfield County Jail and was released at about 8:45 p.m. after posting a $10,000 bond.
Deputy District Attorney Steve Mallory said Thursday that von Stein was cooperating with officials. “She was in the process of turning herself in,” he said.
No formal charges have been filed yet against von Stein. Her first court appearance is scheduled Sept. 18.
Von Stein hired the firm of Kalamaya Goscha to represent her. Michael Fox, an associate attorney with the firm, released this statement Thursday: “We are continuing to investigate this case, but it is clear that there is more to this story than what’s been previously reported,” the statement read. “Brittany is innocent until her guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt. She appreciates the community support she has received. Out of respect for the judicial process and the ongoing investigation, we will not be commenting further.”
Von Stein has been on leave from her post as choir director since the beginning of the school year. Stein, the superintendent, sent a letter to parents on Thursday alerting them about the arrest of von Stein and stating the district is working to find a full-time replacement.
“While we are following due process to terminate her employment, we are also required to remind parents that under state and federal law, a person charged with a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty,” Stein’s letter said.
The letter later continued, “We recognize that our community, especially students, will be feeling a range of emotions. Some of those feelings might include anger, disappointment, betrayal, sadness, and confusion. If your student is having difficulty processing their emotions, please contact the school and one of our counseling staff members will meet with your child.”
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