A former Coppell High School biology teacher was sentenced on Thursday to 10 years of probation for trying to sexually solicit a young boy online in 2019.
But Steven Rhea Hart, 28, of Grapevine wasn’t aware that who he thought was a 15-year-old boy on Grindr was actually an undercover officer working an operation targeting child predators, according to the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office.
Hart was sentenced Thursday morning in Criminal District Court No. 432 in Fort Worth on a charge of online solicitation of a minor/sex.
He was sentenced to 120 months of deferred adjudication probation.
Deferred adjudication probation means if he successfully completes the terms of his probation, there will be no finding of guilt, the case will be dismissed and he will not have a conviction on his record.
The Grapevine man was taken into custody in 2020 after investigators with the Sheriff’s Office’s human trafficking unit completed the undercover operation. He has been free on $10,000 bond.
Hart resigned from the school district shortly before he was arrested, according to a statement released in 2020 by Coppell Independent School District officials.
The alleged incident did not involve a Coppell ISD student, school officials said.
Hart had worked in the district since 2016. School officials also reported the alleged incident to the State Board of Educator Certification.
An arrest warrant written by Detective Krystal Kaether with the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office provided this account of the investigation. The warrant was obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in 2020:
Investigators with the human trafficking unit began participating in the operation in October 2019.
Once Hart contacted the officer posing as a teen, he identified himself as a teacher. He told the officer he had grown up in Hurst, Texas, but he lived in Grapevine.
At some point, Hart — who was identified as “Hello” on Grindr — asked the officer to move the conversations to the application Kik. Hart provided his Kik name as “Sadsteven.”
In the Kik application, Hart and the undercover officer continued sexual conversations as the teacher continued asking the officer if he wanted to have sex. Hart also sent this message, “Can I see your nudes again?”
But the officer responded, “I don’t send nudes lol.”
Their sexual conversations spilled into February 2020 as the officer told Hart that he was a virgin.
In one of their final conversations, Hart talked about being cautious, but he made a promise.
“I want to meet you, but I also like not being in jail,” Hart said in a conversation. “We’re going to have sex sooner or later.”