Elliott Nott, 41, a former teacher at Ogden International School, was charged with seven felony counts of unauthorized videotaping and a felony count of child pornography. (Chicago Police Department)
Chicago Public Schools said it is reviewing its hiring practices after a former teacher with non-felony convictions for peeping and prowling was accused of hiding a camera in a school bathroom and recording at least one student.
The Cook County state's attorney office said Tuesday that it learned of Elliott Nott's criminal background after he was formally charged last week with seven felony counts of unauthorized videotaping and one felony count of child pornography. Nott was removed as a teacher at Ogden International School on the Near North Side before the charges were filed.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys initially said Nott had no criminal history. CPS has not said whether it was aware of Nott's background when he was hired in 2009. "We cannot comment on the specific results contained in a background check, per state law," CPS spokesman Michael Passman said.
Court records from New Hampshire and Illinois show Nott was convicted of a prowling charge while he was a college track coach on the East Coast. Nott was also convicted in a downstate misdemeanor window peeping case years earlier.
Mark Basile, one of Nott's attorneys, said Nott's arrest record was "not relevant" to the current case.
"Our focus right now is the charges he's facing right now, and just making sure that he hopefully gets a fair trial and that the media can be fair about it rather than trying to sensationalize this whole thing," Basile said.
Prosecutors allege Nott, 41, used putty to attach a motion-activated camera under a bathroom sink at Ogden. A search of the camera turned up "multiple images and videos" of school staff using the bathroom, as well as an 8-year-old boy, prosecutors said.
The camera was discovered Sept. 7 when an employee found the small black device with a lens and red blinking light on the bathroom floor.
According to New Hampshire court records, Nott was arrested in 2004 and charged with one count of loitering and prowling.
Nott was a track and field coach at New England College at the time, the school said. Nott also listed as an employer an elementary school several miles from college, according to a Henniker, N.H., police report.
Nott was arrested when an off-duty police officer caught him on his property late at night, the report said. Nott told police he was walking around a building to determine if a certain woman lived there.
Nott was found guilty in 2005, fined $300 and ordered not to have contact with the victim. Nott tried to have his New Hampshire record annulled in 2007, but eventually withdrew the effort, according to court records.
"What was going on before he was arrested, is we were getting numerous complaints of a peeping Tom â€” for lack of a better term. Someone peeping in windows," said Chief Matthew French of the Henniker Police Department.
A woman identified Nott from a photo lineup after reporting a separate incident, police said, but he wasn't charged in that case.
A New England College spokesman said Nott was employed at the small campus from August 2002 through March 2005. Nott's employee records were destroyed, the college said, so the circumstances behind his departure from the school aren't clear.
New Hampshire court records don't disclose whether the prowling offense was designated as a misdemeanor or a lesser violation.
Police in Normal, Ill., confirmed Nott was charged with a misdemeanor "window peeping" violation after a 1993 incident. Nott was sentenced to 18 months supervision, according to McLean County court records. Police were not able to provide the circumstances surrounding that incident.
CPS said employees are required to pass background checks that include a review of state and federal criminal databases as well as fingerprinting.
"We are deeply troubled by the serious allegations facing Mr. Nott, and we are conducting a full review of the situation to ensure proper hiring protocols were followed in 2009," Passman said in a statement.
"If in the course of this review it is determined that the current hiring process can be strengthened, we will not hesitate to revise our procedures."
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