Berlin High School Teacher, Coach Charged With Sexually Assaulting Student

A relationship between a Berlin High School senior and her swim coach started as texting but escalated to sexual encounters through her last year in school, records from his arrest show.

Michael Cwirka, 29, of Meriden, a math teacher and coach at the school, was charged Monday with three counts of second-degree sexual assault and five counts of fourth-degree sexual assault, police said.

The school district’s superintendent, Brian Benigni, said Cwirka is on paid leave as officials await the results of the criminal case. The school district is also conducting a probe into what allegedly transpired between Cwirka and the student.

Berlin police first learned of the incident after a complaint was made through a counselor at the victim’s college, an arrest warrant affidavit for Cwirka states.

During their initial investigation, they determined many of the sexual encounters between the victim, 17 at the time of the allegations, and Cwirka, took place in Meriden, so investigators there took the case, the affidavit said.

The victim told Meriden detectives that Cwirka, her swim coach and class adviser, got her phone number as coach and through 2016 maintained a student-teacher relationship, though they communicated through text, according to the affidavit.

Eventually, those messages became explicit, she said, but Cwirka said he wanted to wait until the school year was over in 2017 to become romantically involved.

She told investigators this changed on Feb. 22, 2017, when he invited her to his parent’s house in Meriden. She said she did not go.

The two spoke and she told Cwirka that she could not come because it was not right for reasons including that it might be illegal, the affidavit read.

She told investigators that he became upset and made her feel bad. The affidavit said that he assured her he worked around children and the age of consent was 16 — a fact she told investigators she researched online. She said the two should wait until she was 18, but felt bad for rejecting him, the affidavit read.

The sexual contact between the victim and Cwirka started two days later, on Feb. 24, 2017, when she visited his home, she told investigators.

The victim detailed additional similar incidents in the coming weeks in which she visited him on March 1, 2017 and twice on March 3, 2017 — once before school and again after her sister’s musical, the affidavit read.

She told investigators that he visited her for another sexual encounter on March 4, 2017 at her parent’s house.

The last incident she told investigators of was an encounter in April on the victim’s birthday at his home, the affidavit said.

Investigators reviewed text messages on the victim’s phone, which revealed conversations of a “sexual nature,” but none were from the time she was a senior in high school, they wrote in the affidavit.

When investigators went to review Cwirka’s phone, they learned that he had replaced it, the affidavit read.

Investigators spoke to several witnesses who learned about the relationship from the victim, the affidavit read. Some of the witnesses had seen sexual messages between the two.

During a brief appearance Tuesday in court, his bail was reduced from $150,000 to $75,000, records show. He was scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 9.

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