WOODSTOCK – A former Des Plaines middle school teacher accused of sexting a student pleaded guilty Thursday to a misdemeanor charge.
Jack K. Pickup, 35, of Barrington worked for Sen. Dan Duffy's election campaign when he was arrested in July 2012 and charged with grooming, a Class 4 felony, and sexual exploitation of a minor.
The felony charge was reduced to misdemeanor harassment by electronic communication in a plea deal accepted Thursday by Judge Gordon Graham.
At the time of his arrest, investigators from the McHenry County Sheriff's Office said Pickup claimed to be Duffy's campaign manager. When reached Thursday after Pickup's court appearance, Duffy refuted that assertion.
Duffy, R-Lake Barrington, said Pickup managed volunteers for his 2012 campaign for about three weeks. He hired Pickup before his arrest – which is why he passed the background check – and immediately let him go upon learning of the charges.
Duffy said he contacted the police, and informed every volunteer, intern and their parents about Pickup's arrest.
"I have a zero-tolerance policy, so I immediately fired him," Duffy said. "I think I did everything I could do."
Pickup was a former teacher at a Des Plaines middle school and had been text-messaging a former student after she graduated eighth grade, the McHenry County Sheriff's Office said. Parents of the 15-year-old contacted investigators after they discovered that Pickup was communicating with their daughter through use of a computer and cellphone. There was no physical contact between the two, but Pickup sent a sexually inappropriate photo, authorities said.
Assistant State's Attorneys Dominick Buttitta and Criminal Division Chief Michael Combs said they were unaware of Pickup's political affiliations.
Pickup had no prior criminal history, and the victim was uncooperative, which is why prosecutors agreed to a reduced charge.
"It was never a consideration," Buttitta said. "I don't know who Dan Duffy's campaign managers are.
"The fact of the matter is, our victim wanted nothing to do with this case."
Pickup was sentenced to two years, nonreporting probation, and ordered to pay a $2,000 fine, complete 200 hours of public service and have no contact with the victim.
• Northwest Herald senior reporter Kevin Craver contributed to this report.