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Ex-Teacher Pleads Guilty to 323 Counts of Secretly Recording Students Changing Clothes

Mark Ackett | Crime | Courts

The 324 total counts represent all 125 of Ackett’s victims from Bloomingdale High School in Valrico—124 students and one adult employee of the school.

TAMPA – Prosecutors with the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office have secured a guilty plea from 52-year-old Mark Ackett on 324 counts of Video Voyeurism.

The counts represent crimes committed against 125 individual victims who were secretly recorded while changing clothes in a dressing room in Ackett’s fashion design classroom at Bloomingdale High School.

“This is an important win for our prosecutors and our community. He pled guilty because we built such a strong case against him, working with our partners in law enforcement. There’s no way out for him—no way for him to avoid being held accountable—so he surrendered,” Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren said.

Judge Laura Ward will hold a sentencing hearing May 10; victims are able to submit a written Victim Impact Statement to the judge in advance or speak in person about how these crimes have affected their lives.

Ackett entered an open plea of guilty before Ward on Thursday (April 1) afternoon, admitting responsibility for 323 counts of Video Voyeurism by a School Employee (a second degree felony) and one count of Video Voyeurism of an Adult (a third degree felony). The counts represent all 125 of Ackett’s victims from Bloomingdale High School in Valrico—124 students and one adult employee of the school.

“This plea spares these young women the pain of reliving their victimization during a trial, and it helps them heal. We’ve worked to make sure these victims have access to services and counseling,” Warren said. “As the father of two young daughters, I’m not sure what I can say to these young women to bring back what Mark Ackett took away from them—but I can now say, to each of them, we have delivered justice.”

Ackett also pleaded guilty to 27 counts from an unrelated Video Voyeurism case not connected to his teaching position. These charges came from additional instances of Video Voyeurism that were discovered by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office on devices seized from Ackett. While not connected to the school, 13 of these instances involved victims younger than 16. Those 13 counts are second degree felonies; the other 14 are third degree felonies.

After this guilty plea, the state will not pursue any other charges currently pending against Ackett. By giving an open plea to the judge, Ackett accepted full responsibility for the crimes, declined a trial by a jury, and allowed the judge to determine his sentence. Under the law, Ackett faces a maximum of 15 years in prison for each second degree felony, and up to five years for each third degree felony. The actual sentencing will be determined by the judge, who can also decide whether some or all of the sentences will run concurrently (at the same time) or consecutively (back-to-back).

Hired at Bloomingdale High School in January 2017, Ackett was a fashion design teacher and girls’ track coach. He used hidden cell phones to secretly record hundreds of students in a changing area until a student discovered the concealed devices in September 2018. Ackett was arrested and resigned his teaching position, and sheriff’s office experts went to work gathering evidence from a range of devices, storage drives, and online accounts connected with him. Assistant State Attorney Courtney Derry led the prosecution effort on behalf of the State and the 125 victims.

PHOTOS SHOW MARK ACKETT AT THE TIME OF HIS ARREST, LEFT, AND WHILE IN COURT THURSDAY (APRIL 1). COURTESY OF THE HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY STATE ATTORNEY’S  OFFICE.

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