WORCESTER — A former Worcester public high school teacher and adjunct faculty member at an area community college pled not guilty to charges of human trafficking on Tuesday.

John Clayton IV, 63, of 117 Maynard St, Northborough, was held on $15,000 bail after being charged on seven counts of trafficking a person for sexual servitude, two counts of rape and two counts of witness intimidation during his arraignment in Worcester Superior Court. The charges were the result of a grand jury indictment on Thursday while Clayton was reportedly out of state. He voluntarily turned himself into authorities on Tuesday morning.

According to a two-year investigation from the Massachusetts State Police High-Risk Victims Unit, Clayton allegedly targeted vulnerable women through social media between 2015 and 2019, offering assistance in helping them overcome addictions. Instead, Clayton—sometimes under the alias, Joseph Hallenbeck—offered both money and drugs in exchange for sex. 

“Investigators identified multiple women whom, as alleged by the evidence, were targeted, manipulated, and exploited by Clayton,” read a statement issued by State Police.  “Generally, the victims allegedly preyed upon by the defendant were drug-addicted, engaged in prostitution, isolated from support, and having very little financial means.”

According to Worcester County DA Courtney Sans, police reportedly found video evidence of one of four of the main victims suffering rape while being restrained by Clayton. At least one victim indicated Clayton, who previously received two separate restraining orders, had a license to carry firearms.

The Worcester district attorney’s office has confirmed that Clayton worked in the past as a high school teacher and served as an adjunct faculty member at Quinsigamond Community College for the past four years.

“Earlier today John Clayton IV of Northborough was charged in Worcester Superior Court with a number of serious criminal charges,” read a statement from Quinsigamond.  “Mr. Clayton was employed periodically as an adjunct instructor at Quinsigamond Community College since 2015 but is no longer employed by QCC in any capacity. As there is an active criminal investigation underway, all inquiries concerning this matter should be directed to the District Attorney’s Office.”

Officials said Clayton was formerly a foster parent. The Massachusetts Department of Children and Family has neither confirmed nor denied the report.

According to Clayton’s attorney, Bradley J Bailey, Clayton insists he was helping the women through their addiction struggles, indicating the possibility of a consent defense.

“He intends to fight the charges,” said Bailey.

Worcester Superior Court ordered Tuesday that Clayton be placed under GPS monitored home confinement and surrender only his passport and pilot’s license. He is scheduled to return to court on February 27.

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