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Teacher trial focuses on prior warning about touching children

2013-01-18T16:40:00Z 2013-01-18T16:41:15Z Teacher trial focuses on prior warning about touching childrenDON LEHMAN -- dlehman@poststar.com Glens Falls Post-Star
January 18, 2013 4:40 pm  • 

KINGSBURY -- The former Greenwich teacher who is under indictment for alleged improper contact with students was warned in 2004 by a school administrator not to “be alone around children or to touch them,” a prosecutor said Friday.

The directive to Eric McHenry came four years before alleged incidents that led to an investigation by police and a subsequent grand jury investigation resulting in charges of misdemeanor sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. The sexual abuse count has been dismissed, but McHenry still faces five counts of endangering the welfare of a child.

The prior warning was revealed during a pre-trial hearing Friday in Kingsbury Town Court, as Justice Michael Keenan weighed a request by McHenry’s lawyer to dismiss the charges.

The 2004 school district instruction to McHenry is among the evidence in question in the case, as defense lawyer Brian Breedlove seeks dismissal of the charges because the defense believes the grand jury heard evidence it should not have before indicting McHenry.

Breedlove also has said the evidence was insufficient because the behavior that resulted in the charges was innocent contact between a teacher and students, such as touching their shoulders and legs over their clothing.

Washington County Assistant District Attorney Katherine Henley told Keenan evidence of the prior warning was permissible before the grand jury, as was other material from a related civil lawsuit filed by parents of two of the accusers.

Washington County District Attorney Kevin Kortright said there was a similar allegation against McHenry in 2004, when he was accused of improper physical contact with a child. Police were not contacted, and no charges were filed in that instance, he said.

“It was something that was handled internally. That was one of our concerns when we started looking at this case,” Kortright said.

Cambridge-Greenwich Police Chief George Bell, whose agency investigated the case, said he could not discuss the prior warning, other than to say he was aware “there were other issues with him (McHenry) before” charges were brought.

A call to Greenwich Central School’s administrative offices was not returned Friday afternoon.

Asking Keenan to dismiss the charges, defense lawyer Brian Breedlove called the case the “poster child for outrageous presentations before the grand jury,” and said the panel improperly heard “hearsay” evidence.

“There are innumerable allegations of bad acts in that complaint that no one testified to,” Breedlove said.

Henley said the grand jury investigation also examined the actions of school administrators.

In addition to charges against McHenry and two administrators, the grand jury issued four reports, which have been sealed by Washington County Judge Kelly McKeighan pending the outcome of the criminal case.

“This was an investigation of a series of incidents and the response to those incidents,” she said.

Charges against the two administrators, Greenwich School Superintendent Matthias Donnelly and former Principal Benjamin Pisani, accused them of breaking state law by not making child abuse reports to the state about the allegations. Those charges were dismissed in Hudson Falls Village Court.

Keenan said he would rule on Breedlove’s motion by Feb. 1. Trial in the case has been set for Feb. 20, but a dismissal would render the trial date moot.

McHenry, 38, of Queensbury, is free pending further court action. He was arrested in March 2011 and was on paid administrative leave until his position was eliminated last summer. He had taught in the district for 15 years.

Copyright 2015 Glens Falls Post-Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(7) Comments

  1. dadof1inGtown
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    dadof1inGtown - February 06, 2013 4:06 pm
    sounds like we r on the same page than as far as that goes...thank God.i feel like everyone is defending the wrong person or/and people.No lawsuit in future for me just want justice!!!
  2. motherof3plus09
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    motherof3plus09 - February 05, 2013 9:56 pm
    One if my kids IS a third grader and I WOULD have called the cops and no amount of money would be enough if he was touched inappropriately! Try filed a lawsuit almost a YEAR before it was reported to the police...
  3. dadof1inGtown
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    dadof1inGtown - February 05, 2013 6:04 am
    WHAT IF one of the kids was ur 3rd grader and WHAT IF she told u that he touched her some where between the knee and thigh area and WHAT IF u did go to the cops and NOT the school and WHAT IF NO MONEY WAS INVOLVED?????
  4. motherof3plus09
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    motherof3plus09 - February 02, 2013 10:02 am
    If these allegations sounded harmful( which they don't) and the parents would have contacted police BEFORE filing a multi million dollar lawsuit...and all the evidence I have seen pointed to his guilt of something other than encouragement(it does not) I would stick up for the kids I have four children and would have had the cops on the phone before even reporting it to the school district in my OPINION that is common sense! Read all the articles on this case and see how fishy it sounds! Also a female teacher can hug students and nothing is deemed wrong but let a male teacher do it and he is a pedophile!!! I am sorry kids these days(and the parents who trained them) are way to sensitive and need to use some common sense a pat in the back does(or rubbing in encouragement) not equal child endangerment!
  5. dadof1inGtown
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    dadof1inGtown - February 01, 2013 8:19 pm
    i have tried commenting but it hasnt been posted so obviously someone with the post star did not like what i had to say..so here i go once again.Alot of people r defending this man who MIGHT have done something wrong.All i want to say is IF he DID do what he is accused of doing...what about these kids and what they have or are going to b going through????? what IF he is guilty but found not guilty,what is this going to tell these kids and or any kid who has also been a victim and just did not come forward????I am NOT defending or Condeming Mr McHenry i am just saying that it is not just about him.i really hope u guys post this comment because i have not seen too many people sticking up for these kids!!!
  6. Uzi
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    Uzi - January 19, 2013 5:55 pm
    I'm pretty sure at some point ALL male teachers at every level K-12 are "warned" to not be alone with female students or to touch any students. You see a female teacher console a sad second grader with a hug, and she's considered a caregiver. You see a male teacher do the same thing and he's a predator. If you want to ruin the life of a male teacher, make an accusation that he said or did something that made you "feel uncomfortable". The school won't stand behind him, and the community will condemn him.
  7. motherof3plus09
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    motherof3plus09 - January 18, 2013 5:20 pm
    Just curious as to how they would have had him comply with that directive??? Never touch a student I any way? Never be alone with a student? Hmmm pretty impossible sounding... Can they prove that he was actually told that... I don't think the allegations that are being said here rise to the levels need to prove anything...

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