By Kaitlyn McCormick
Westminster Conservatory of Music teacher José Sánchez was arrested on Oct. 7 following a child pornography investigation, according to law enforcement officials. This arrest comes just over a year after the arrest of another teacher at Rider’s conservatory, accused of sexual assault of a minor last September.
Sánchez, 58, of Monroe, was charged with second-degree file sharing of child pornography and third-degree possession of child pornography, according to an Oct. 11 press release from the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office.
Sánchez was charged with viewing and sharing child pornography following the execution of a search warrant at a West Windsor residence on Oct. 7 by the prosecutor’s office’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Unit. Sánchez’s electronic devices were seized for forensic examination, according to the release.
Detailed in a since-deleted teacher biography on Rider’s website, Sánchez was a graduate of the Juilliard School in New York and once served as the director of the Children’s Orchestra from the Institute of Culture in Mazatlán, Mexico.
Sánchez was a violin instructor for the Westminster Conservatory, a branch of Rider University that offers children’s music lessons and classes out of its Princeton campus. According to prosecutors, he also provided music lessons to children from a private West Windsor studio.
According to Rider’s Director of Communications, Rachel Stengel, the conservatory is currently in the process of identifying Sánchez’s students and contacting their parents to either cancel or reschedule their lessons under a different instructor.
Rider’s Associate Vice President for University Marketing and Communications Kristine Brown said on Oct. 12 that Sánchez is no longer actively employed by the university. According to the prosecutor’s office there are no further updates on the case.
Second-degree child pornography crimes carry a five to 10 year sentence in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000; the third-degree crime carries a sentence of three-to-five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000, according to the release.
In September 2021, another Westminster Conservatory violin instructor, Dezheng Ping, was arrested and charged following accusations of sexual assault of a 12-year-old student in 2016.
Though Ping was placed on leave at the time of his arrest last year, recent accounts show that he has been active with the conservatory, including being listed on the Sept. 15 program for a “Conservatory at Nassau: Violin and Piano” faculty recital event advertised on Facebook.
Brown said, “Dezheng Ping has not provided any private music lessons through the Westminster Conservatory since Sept. 2021. Because his legal case is ongoing, he has not yet been terminated. He performed at a public recital not held on campus in Sept. 2022.”
According to the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, Ping is scheduled for court at 9 a.m. on Oct. 16 in the courtroom of Honorable Judge Paone.
Stengel confirmed Saturday that employees are required to undergo pre-employment screening, which includes national and state background checks.