DA Says New Hartford Case Went Before Grand Jury, New Charges Alleged
The New Hartford Senior High School teacher entangled in a possible sexual harassment lawsuit is facing seven new accusations from his accuser, despite the fact that an Oneida County Grand Jury found nothing criminal in the case last fall.
In an Observer Dispatch story last week, New Hartford High School history teacher Jeff Walters (J.F. Walters) was placed at the center of an inappropriate touching accusation after the family of a female student, a junior at the school, said he inappropriately reached into her jeans pocket as she and two other students were inquiring about membership in a school club. The family told the OD that they have filed a notice of claim against the school, Walters, the school principal, and a social worker, because they believe the matter was handled improperly.
Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara told WIBX on Friday that the case did reach his office and it was investigated. He said it was presented before an Oneida County Grand Jury. That Grand Jury, he said decided not to proceed with the case, concluding that nothing criminal had occurred. Thus, Walters was not indicted. McNamara added that he was not sure who reported the case. He said that despite the fact that the Grand Jury found nothing that reached a level of criminality, the decision does not rule out possible wrongdoing by Walters within a school setting.
New Hartford Central School District Superintendent, Dr. Cosimo Tangorra, told WIBX that without being specific, he feels the case was properly adjudicated. He added that if there are any additional cases of inappropriate behavior, they should be reported directly to him and an independent investigation will be conducted.
The OD reported last week that the school issued a "stay away" directive to Walters, which they say meant he should not have contact with the student. On Wednesday, the OD published another story in which the female student and her family made additional claims that Walters had violated that order, even after the notice of claim was filed. The news article reported that Walters had violated the order at least seven times.
According to the OD, the family reported seven new allegations recently, including one that claims the student was walking past Walters' classroom recently with friends, when he began "following them down a stairway." The student told the OD she was able to see him behind her through the reflection in a window. She told the newspaper that after Walters had followed them down the stairs, he then turned off and went in a different direction.
Tangorra said he was unable to talk about the case because a possible lawsuit had been threatened. Currently, the "stay away order" has been described to the newspaper but has not been confirmed by the New Hartford Central School District. It is also unclear what a "stay away order" would require for Walters and how he would be able to follow such an order when both he and the student are both located in the same wing of the high school. The initial OD report also detailed the claim by the student's mother that the high school principal refused to move the student's locker away from Walters' home room. Details of that claim have not been verified by the school district.
When asked if the New Hartford Central School District failed to act after the accusation was made against Walters, DA McNamara said, "It's not accurate. Like I said, the case was presented to a grand jury; the grand jury heard the evidence and declined to return charges," he added.
Listen to complete interview with DA Scott McNamara here:
[AUTHOR'S NOTE: As of this posting no arrests have been made in this case. All persons suspected of wrongdoing or charged in any cases are innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.]