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Ex-teacher who spied on students gets 25-year term

Eric Justin Toth (shown after his arrest in Nicaragua in 2013) spent five years on the run, assuming fake identities and living in Arizona and Texas before escaping the country.

Esteban Felix/Associated Press file

Eric Justin Toth (shown after his arrest in Nicaragua in 2013) spent five years on the run, assuming fake identities and living in Arizona and Texas before escaping the country.

WASHINGTON — A former Washington elementary school teacher who became one of the FBI’s most-wanted criminals after taking hidden video of his students using the bathroom and then eluded law enforcement officials by assuming fake identities and escaping to Nicaragua has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Eric Justin Toth spent five years on the run, living in Arizona and Texas before escaping the country. In 2012, the FBI put him on its ‘‘Ten Most Wanted’’ list, where he filled a vacancy created by Osama bin Laden’s death.

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Before sentencing him Tuesday, a judge noted his skill at evading law enforcement and the large number of victims in the case, 17 in all.

Toth had asked for 22 years in prison, expressing remorse and promising to ‘‘do penance’’ for his deeds. A prosecutor asked for 30.

‘‘I know I’ve hurt people, a lot of people,’’ Toth told Judge Rudolph Contreras at a federal court hearing.

Toth, 32, became choked up while speaking, at points tearing up but at others attempting to joke. Toth, who will spend a lifetime on supervised release after he leaves prison, mentioned Google Glass and said he told his lawyer he could wear glasses that allow officials to ensure he is staying away from children.

He promised to spend his time in prison ‘‘trying to do penance in whatever humble ways I can.’’ Toth previously wrote in a letter to the judge that one of the things he wants to do is train seeing eye dogs as part of a prison program.

The prosecutor overseeing the case acknowledged that Toth had never distributed the images he took of children under his care. But she told the judge that Toth is ‘‘deeply disturbed and needs treatment.’’

Toth fled Washington in 2008 after images of child pornography were found on a camera he had used while a teacher at Beauvoir, a private elementary school.

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