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NY teacher convicted of molesting student, cleared in other cases

A former music teacher at the Onondaga
Indian Nation School
was convicted Thursday of molesting one of his students.

But an Onondaga County Court
jury acquitted Albert Scerbo on 17 of the 19 charges he faced, clearing him of
abusing nine other young girls.

The jury of seven men and five women deliberated nearly 16
hours over three days before convicting the 45-year-old Scerbo on single counts
of first-degree sexual abuse and endangering the welfare of a child. Both
charges involved the same victim.

Scerbo left the court immediately without comment after
hearing the verdict. His wife was in tears. Defense attorney Edward Menkin said
he was disappointed by the decision.

Scerbo faces up to seven years in prison. Judge William
Walsh scheduled sentencing for Oct. 10.

On Monday, Scerbo took the witness stand to adamantly deny
that he sexually molested any of the girls.

Scerbo admitted to jurors that he sometimes allowed students
to sit on his lap and in retrospect “that probably wasn’t a good
idea.” However, Scerbo said he never forced the children to sit on his lap
and never received any sexual gratification from it.

Thirteen girls, ranging in age from 7 to 14, testified that
Scerbo touched them through their clothing as they sat on his lap in the back
of a darkened room while he showed movies or videos to the class.

Scerbo, of Clay, went to trial on 28 criminal counts
involving allegations of abuse at the reservation school from Sept. 4, 2002 through Dec. 18, 2006, when he
was arrested.

The father of two initially was charged with having sexual
contact with two girls, ages 7 and 8. But the list of victims grew to 17 as
deputies investigated the case.

He was indicted on 35 charges. Before trial, Walsh dismissed
seven counts, dropping four victims from the case because of insufficient or
contradictory evidence. The judge removed three more victims after listening to
testimony, reducing the counts against Scerbo to 19 involving 10 victims.

During his legal instructions, Walsh told jurors not to draw
any conclusions from his decision to dismiss some of the charges.

The jury acquitted Scerbo of nine counts of endangering the
welfare of a child, three counts of second-degree course sexual conduct against
a child, three counts of second-degree sexual abuse and two counts of
first-degree sexual abuse.

In closing arguments, Menkin argued that Scerbo was the
victim of a racially motivated conspiracy, noting that all the victims were
American Indians. Menkin reminded jurors the allegations were first made a day
after one of the accusers reportedly called Scerbo a “white Christian
cracker” in class.

He urged the jurors to sharply question the credibility of
Scerbo’s young accusers.

Assistant District Attorney Gary Dawson scoffed at the
defense theory of a conspiracy. The prosecutor said the case was about
victimizing the vulnerable.

Dawson told jurors Scerbo was “a thrill seeker”
who satisfied his sexual desires by touching children in his classroom.

Dawson said he was pleased by the outcome, despite the
acquittals. He said the verdict would prevent Scerbo from ever teaching again
and having access to children.

Scerbo, who taught at the Onondaga school for eight years,
was suspended after his arrest and placed him on administrative leave. The
reservation school has about 90 pupils.

– Associated Press

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