NJ wrestling coach accused of molesting teen faced claims a decade ago
SAYREVILLE — A longtime New Jersey wrestling coach current special education teacher at the borough's middle school charged this week with sexually assaulting a minor, faced different accusations of improper behavior at the high school more than a decade ago.
John Denuto, 43, was arrested Saturday amid accusations that he molested a teen from 2017 to 2019, according to the criminal complaint filed in Superior Court.
Denuto is charged with second-degree sexual assault, third degree endangering the welfare of a child, second degree filming child pornography and third degree possession of child pornography, Middlesex County Acting Prosecutor Christopher Kuberiet said.
Investigators say the victim was a former 8th grade student of Denuto who Denuto convinced to allow him to privately train. The victim reported the accusations to Sayreville police in December.
Following Denuto's arrest, he was fired by Union County College, which had hired him in August.
“Upon learning of the criminal charges, John Denuto was terminated as Head Wrestling Coach. The College is cooperating with law enforcement. We have no further comment at this time.” according to a written statement from Union County College Executive Director of College Relations Jaime Segal.
Denuto also was suspended from his teaching position at Sayreville Middle School.
Sayreville schools Superintendent Richard Labbe said the district is “shocked and deeply troubled by what has occurred” and are currently cooperating with law enforcement.
“As required by state law, Mr. Denuto will be suspended with pay effective immediately pending the outcome of this criminal investigation," Labbe said Monday.
Both Segal and Labbe said safety and wellbeing of students is top priority.
Denuto already was involved in a legal battle amid claims of improper conduct while he was wrestling coach and a tenured teacher at Sayreville War Memorial High School.
Denuto sued the Sayreville Board of Education in 2009, objecting to his being fired as a coach and being transferred to a teaching position at the middle school. He also sued a group of parents for defamation.
In a counter-claim filed in U.S. District Court of New Jersey, parents of four student athletes said Denuto had carried out unlawful strip searches of their children while also sending inappropriate text messages and talking about sexual encounters with other teachers at the school.
Denuto also was suspended as an assistant football coach at the high school in Monroe Township during the legal action in 2009.
The case was settled, except for one set of parents, and Denuto's complaint said an investigation by the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office and state authorities concluded that the accusations were "unfounded."
When asked Tuesday about the previous accusations brought against Denuto in Sayreville, which unfolded under a previous superintendent, Labbe declined further comment.
Before his most recent coaching position, Denuto worked with wrestling teams at roughly 15 high schools — including Camden Catholic, Pennsville, Raritan High School in Hazlet, St. Joseph Regional in Montvale and Arthur L. Johnson Regional in Clark.
Denuto was being held at Middlesex County jail, pending a detention hearing set for Wednesday.
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