An Indian Trail High School orchestra teacher is holding on a $30,000 cash bail after being charged with five serious sex charges. Nathan R. Gardner, 27, of Racine was charged today with posession of child pornography, child enticement, two counts of exposing a child to harmful material, and one count of using a computer to facilitate a child sex crime. Gardner faces a maximum sentence of almost 100 years in the Wisconsin Prison system if convicted of all charges. He also faces a minimum sentence of eight years in prison if convicted.
“The state is requesting a $75,000 cash bond…These charges are extremely serious. They carry with [them] extreme penalties. Two of the charges themselves are mandatory minimums, which means if convicted, he would serve at least three to five years of initial confinement. The state believes that alone is concern that the defendant is a flight risk and may not come back to court,” said ADA Alexandra Smathers.
Kenosha County Circuit Court Commissioner William Michel II set Gardner’s bail at $30,000 and ordered him to stay away from the victim, the high school and the internet.
According to the criminal complaint:
On October 26, 2023, a Kenosha Police Officer was notified of a potential sex crime involving a staff member at Indian Trail High School in Kenosha. The staff member was identified as the orchestra teacher Nathan Gardner. The officer made contact with a teacher who said she was approached by two of her students who wished to report that their minor friend, “Freddy”, was having an inappropriate sexual relationship with a teacher at the school.
The students didn’t know all of the details, but they told the teacher that Freddy and Gardner met on the “hook-up” site “Grindr.” According to its website, Grindr is the world’s largest “social networking app” for gay, bi, trans, and queer people. They knew that Freddy and Gardner exchanged nude photos and had some sexual contact when Freddy was 14 or 15 years old during his freshman year.
A Kenosha Police detective started an investigation, but learned that the crimes occurred in the Village of Somers. He handed off the case to veteran Detective Daniel Bella with the Kenosha County Sheriff’s Department. Bella is a part of the Sheriff’s Department’s sensitive crime division and has a very high conviction rate.
Detective Bella eventually interviewed the alleged victim, Freddy. He disclosed that in the fall of his Freshman year, which was in 2021 when he was 14-15 years old, he downloaded Grindr and created an account which indicated he was 18 years old and included a photo of himself. When men would message him, Freddy would tell them that he was 14/15 years old and they would stop talking to him. However, at one point, an adult male profile without a photograph messaged Freddy. This profile was later determined to be Gardner’s.
Freddy told the Defendant he was 16 years old and Gardner continued to message Freddy. After a while, Gardner asked Freddy for his Snapchat username, which Freddy provided and their communication moved to Snapchat. On Snapchat, Freddy disclosed that he was actually 15 years old. Gardner asked where he went to school and Freddy told him ITA. Gardner then stated that he was 18 years old and a senior at ITA. When Freddy asked the Defendant what his name was, the Defendant told him “Steven Clark.” Gardner never sent Freddy photos of his face.
The two of them eventually began sexting and sharing explicit images. Freddy sent Gardner pictures of himself clothed and nude, including photographs of Freddy’s penis (child pornography). Gardner also sent photographs of himself clothed and nude, including photographs of Gardner’s penis. When Freddy would send nude photographs of himself, Gardner would save these photographs, which detectives know to be a visible notification on Snapchat. When asked about identifying characteristics of Gardner’s body, Freddy knew the Defendant had a tattoo on his thigh.
As far as explicit messages, Freddy stated that he and Gardner would chat about sexual acts and discuss doing those acts with each other, including oral and anal intercourse. Throughout the course of these conversations, the Gardner told Freddy that his name wasn’t “Steven Clark,” but was in fact “Nick.”
In the Spring Semester of 2022, when Freddy was still 15 years old, Freddy provided Gardner his address and asked Gardner to bring him some ice cream from McDonalds. Gardner got Freddy ice cream and drove to Freddy’s house, making sure to park out of view. Freddy went outside and got into Gardner’s vehicle, which Freddy described as a white SUV. Freddy stated that while in the car, they talked for a bit and kissed. This was the one and only time they met in person outside of school. Freddy stated that they did see each other a few times at ITA and talked briefly. It should be noted that Gardner’s classroom at ITA was located in a portion of the building that only students who are in band, orchestra or choir would utilize. Freddy did not take any of those elective classes, which explains why Freddy and Gardner rarely saw each other or ran into each other at school.
Sometime after this face-to-face meeting, Freddy asked Gardner if his name was “Nicholas” and Gardner told him it was “Nathan.” Freddy then asked for the first letter of his last name, and Gardner said “G.” Freddy then obtained his freshman yearbook and began to look at all the “Nathan’s and all the students with a last name starting with “G.” He compared these with a photograph he had saved of Gardner’s partial face, which Gardner sent him via Snapchat. Freddy didn’t find any matches for Gardner in the student section, but kept looking. Eventually, Freddy came across the orchestra teacher “Nathan Gardner” and immediately recognized him as the guy who brought him ice cream and whom Freddy kissed. Freddy immediately confronted Gardner on social media about him being a teacher, but Gardner brushed it off and attempted to continue normal conversation. Freddy unfriended Gardner from his social media accounts.
During Freddy’s Sophomore year, between 2022-2023, Freddy transferred from ITA to another high school and the two of them began messaging again. Freddy stated that it began by Gardner asking Freddy not to tell anyone about what had occurred between the two of them. Freddy told Gardner he would not. As the two of them began messaging again, Freddy began to have feelings for Gardner again. Freddy stated that he got past the fact that Gardner was a teacher.
The two of them then began sexting and sending explicit photographs back and forth again. When Freddy would send Gardner an explicit photograph, Gardner would once again save them. If Freddy asked Gardner to “unsave” the photographs, he would. By the end of Freddy’s Sophomore year, the sexting and sending of explicit images stopped, and they just had normal conversations.
During Freddy’s Junior year, beginning in the Fall of 2023, Gardner continued to message Freddy. Freddy would sometimes respond, but most of the time he would not even open the messages from Gardner. Gardner also attempted to re-add Freddy as a friend on his social media accounts. Freddy showed this to his friend and told his friend that it was the teacher Freddy had been talking to. It should be noted that Gardner was employed as a teacher at ITHSA during the entire time Freddy was in communication with him.
On November 7, 2023, Detective Bella, along with other law enforcement officers, took Gardner into custody at his home in Racine, Wisconsin. On his person was his cell phone, which was seized along with other electronics within the home. Also present was Gardner’s partner. Detective Bella contacted the Kenosha County Jail after Gardner was booked. Gardner disclosed during the booking process that he has a tattoo on his right thigh.
Gardner is due back in court on November 16, 2023 for a preliminary hearing. Gardner is on administrative leave from KUSD.
*On 11/13/2023 @ 10:37 a.m.(CST), two photos of Garder were removed for clerical reasons.*