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James Earl Cude
Dallas County Sheriffs Department | James Earl Cude

High School Band Director Gets 14 Years for Preying on Children

55-year-old James Earl Cude, a former Mesquite High School band teacher, was arrested after seeking underage relations with someone he thought was a 13-year-old boy.

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Cude, who worked as a band director in North Texas public schools for 32 years, led a double life that was unknown to the parents and students he worked with. While he spent his days mentoring high school students, at home he spent his time looking on his phone for underage boys to have inappropriate relationships with.

According to evidence in the case against him, Cude would seek out and exchange explicit photos with these young men. In February 2019 he arrived at a Starbucks to meet one of his targets, a 13-year-old boy.

That boy was actually an undercover officer.

Cude Faced Up to 20 Years in Prison

On Thursday the judge sentenced Cude to 14 years in prison. He pleaded guilty for being in receipt of child pornography and faced a maximum of 20 years. His initial charge was for attempted enticement of a minor.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Camille Sparks said, “That is every parent’s nightmare; he is essentially a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

Sparks had hoped that as a teacher, Cude would get the maximum sentence.

“He is in a position of trust. It makes it so much worse,” she said. “He abused our trust.”

A Homeland Security Investigations agent, Stephanie Hard, testified that Cude used Kik and Snapchat as a means to talk with the young boys.

In the chats, he asked them what schools they attended, telling one student, “Sorry to ask, but I teach so it would be weird if we went to the same school.”

Man Had Multiple Jobs Working With Kids

Cude wasn’t just a former band director; he was also a Sunday school teacher and former church deacon. He was still active in his church at the time of his arrest and was the president of a statewide association of small marching bands.

His wife, Linda Cude, says she still stands by her husband and is committed to their marriage.

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Dan Perez