SCRANTON — A former Holy Redeemer High School football coach was sentenced Wednesday to 25 years in prison on charges he enticed numerous people, including minors, from at least 15 states to engage in sexually explicit behavior over the Internet.
Before being taken to federal prison, Joseph Ostrowski, 29, of Wilkes-Barre, has an appearance scheduled Friday morning in Luzerne County Court, where he’s expected to plead guilty to corruption of minors-related charges filed against him at the state level. That hearing is set for 9 a.m. before Judge Michael Vough.
Federal District Judge Edwin M. Kosik handed out the federal sentence at the William J. Nealon Federal Building in Scranton as about a dozen of Ostrowski’s family members and friends looked on from a mostly empty courtroom. Ostrowski apologized to them, the victims and the court.
In December, Ostrowski agreed to plead guilty to charges of production and attempted production of child pornography, extortion and cyber stalking.
A year ago, he was arrested and charged for posing as a female on the social networking site Facebook to trick a male Wilkes-Barre teenager into emailing nude photos of himself, according to an arrest affidavit. He then used the images to try to extort the teen into sending more photos.
Later, he was charged with additional counts accusing him of engaging in similar conduct from 2006 through May 2012 involving victims from New York, North Carolina, California, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Minnesota, Indiana, Alabama and Maryland.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Francis Sempa told the court Ostrowski had victimized or attempted to victimize more than 60 people, used deception to compromise the Facebook and other online identities of people, and in some instances took advantage of the trust that athletes placed in him.
Sempa characterized Ostrowski as “the very definition of an online predator.”
The maximum penalty for all of Ostrowski’s offenses combined was 37 years in prison. But the plea agreement called for him to serve 25 years behind bars. He also agreed to a lifetime term of supervised release upon his release from prison and to pay any restitution the U.S. Probation Department determines is due his victims.
Even with the federal sentence behind him, Ostrowski is still facing state charges. The allegations against him stemmed from the federal investigation.
This March, law enforcement authorities arrested Ostrowski and charged him with indecent assault, corruption of minors and photographing a sex act involving a minor.
During the federal investigation, a 13-year-old boy came forward and alleged Ostrowski molested him inside the high school. The FBI notified the Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office, which launched an investigation.
According to court documents, the boy stated he was lifting weights inside the school when Ostrowski told him to go into the coaches’ locker room to be fitted for a girdle, an undergarment that holds pads under football pants.
Once inside, the boy alleged, Ostrowski performed a lewd act on him and used a cellphone to take a picture of him naked, according to the criminal complaint.
Ostrowski has pleaded not guilty to those charges, but attorney Philip Gelso said that he and co-counsel Frank Nocito are working on a plea agreement “in the near future.”
Ostrowski’s attorneys spoke to media outside of Courtroom No. 4, while inside that courtroom, federal marshals kept an eye on Ostrowski as he was given a few minutes to speak with his friends and family. As they left the courtroom, none of them had a comment.
But many of them, and others, wrote letters to Kosik on Ostrowski’s behalf. A total of 21 letters, including one penned by Ostrowski, were sent to the judge, according to attorney Philip Gelso.
Kosik accepted the plea agreement but not before he had some harsh words for the crimes to which Ostrowski admitted.
“There’s nothing you can say in a case like this,” said Kosik, adding that it was “a sad case.”
“I wish there was some way the community could do something medically to correct the person to become a responsible citizen in society,” Kosik said.
In addition to the prison time and fines and court costs handed out, Kosik ordered that Ostrowski cannot reside within 1,000 feet of any place “where children under 18 congregate” including schools, parks, arcades or day cares.