EHT High diving coach called himself a pedophile, state says
A high school diving coach facing child pornography charges referred to himself as a pedophile when detectives questioned him, according to the prosecutor in the case.
Mark Balesteri Jr. was released at a detention hearing Monday, with conditions including no access to social media and or any non-relative under the age of 18.
The 29-year-old Egg Harbor Township man is currently suspended from his positions at the township High School’s diving coach and teacher’s aide, after he was found to have more than 1,000 images of child sexual abuse, which he shared via Snapchat.
He confessed his attraction to girls who are about 13 or 14 years old during an interview following his arrest, Assistant Prosecutor Erika Halayko told the judge.
“He said he had a fetish for that kind of thing,” she said. At one point, “he referred to himself as a pedophile.
He also admitted that he “rubbed up against some females of that age,” Halayko said.
Balesteri was arrested last week after a months-long investigation into his online activity, Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner said at the time.
Defense attorney Steve Scheffler pointed to Balesteri’s lack of a criminal record and close ties to the community as reasons for his release.
Balesteri’s mother, father and sister were in the courtroom for support, along with his fiance, who he is supposed to marry in early May, Scheffler said.
The public safety assessment — which is part of the decision in detaining a defendant under bail reform — was at the lowest for both failure to appear and likelihood to commit another offense. It recommended Balesteri be released.
Superior Court Judge Patricia Wild said she didn’t believe that the state proved that no conditions could make release possible.
Balesteri is required to check in with the court once a month in person and once a month on the phone.
He also can’t use any social media, and none of his family or friends can comment about the case online on his behalf, Wild said.
She made mention of a recent case in which someone who was incarcerated was having people post for him online. While she didn’t mention it by name, she was obviously referring to Ferdinand Augello, who is now serving a life sentencing in the deadly drug-trafficking ring that led to April Kauffman’s murder.
Wild made clear that the case would be fought in the courtroom and not in the media.
Her decision varied from one made by Superior Court Judge Benjamin Podolnick, who ordered Pleasantville High School Principal Edward Bonek held pending his trial on similar charges.
Bonek is accused of having child sexual assault images in a shareable file on his school-issued computer that he used between work and home.
Attorneys John Zarych and Brenden Shur appealed Podolnick’s decision, but were denied.