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NYC School Teacher Cleared Of Rape

Rape charges against teacher dropped


By Ann Givens NEWSDAY STAFF WRITER

After he was charged with statutory rape two years ago, George Zanetis lost his job as a New York City school teacher, lost his wife and lost contact with his two children.

Today, the charges that caused his life to fall apart were dropped by the Nassau District Attorney’s Office.

Zanetis, 44 of Roslyn, formerly a teacher at Aviation High School , a public school in Long Island City, was arrested in June 2004 and charged with having sex with a 16 year old student. But after Zanetis’ arrest the girl, whose name was not released, recanted her statement, and denied that they had sex.

In recent months, prosecutors preparing for Zanetis’ trial could not reach the girl and ultimately could not make their case without her. “She recanted on her testimony from day one,” said Eric Phillips, a spokesman for Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice. “Without her, we simply could not go forward.”

Zanetis and his lawyer, William Petrillo of Rockville Centre, now say investigators may have intimidated the girl by keeping her in custody until she incriminated Zanetis.

“People who had always been on my side turned against me without evidence,” Zanetis said. “My life has been wiped out and now I have to start over.”

Richard Condon, special commissioner of investigation for the New York City School District , said his investigators did nothing wrong. He said the fact that the girl recanted does not change his mind about Zanetis’ guilt.

“I feel they were engaged in a sexual relationship,” he said. “This outcome does not change my mind about that.” He added that an investigation report shows that Zanetis had called the girl 30 times, and she had called him 134 times in a 10 month period.

Zanetis said he had an innocent relationship with the girl, and had agreed to drive her to the subway after school occasionally, with the consent of her legal guardian. He said he was shocked in June 2004 when investigators pulled them over and questioned them.

Initially, Zanetis said he agreed to plead guilty to the lesser crime of endangering the welfare of a child because he was misinformed by a previous lawyer about the law, and he was afraid of what would happen if he went to trial. But after hiring Petrillo, Zanetis was able to vacate his plea, an unusual step in a criminal case.

Zanetis is waiting now for a school district arbitrator to decide whether he can return to work. Condon said the dismissal of the charges will have no bearing on Zanetis’ reinstatement, as he may have committed other offenses that could result in firing.

Zanetis said that after he was charged, he and his wife separated and he lost contact with his two children, ages 12 and 14, though he had begun visiting one recently. “I went from being with my kids every day, helping them with their homework, to not being with them at all,” Zanetis said. “These are the pieces I’m going to have to put back together.”

Rape Teen Flips
By Kiernan Crowley NEW YORK POST STAFF WRITER

A judge yesterday tossed out a statutory-rape charge against a high-school teacher in Queens because his alleged 16-year old victim recanted her story. “I’ve been through hell and back,” accused instructor George Zanetis said through tears after the hearing. “I lost my marriage, my profession, my reputation, my kids the whole nine yards. This has devastated my life.”

Zanetis, 44, a popular air­craft-maintenance teacher at Aviation HS in Long Island City, Queens. Long Island City , was busted in June 2004 after allegedly having sex with the teen in his parked car at a Jones Beach parking lot. Authorities first caught wind of the reputed relationship after another teacher at the school heard the rumors and notified the principal, who then contacted them.

Zanetis’ lawyer, William Petrillo, said the girl was interrogated for 2 1/2 hours by investigators, who told her “she could leave only if she signed a statement” written by one of them. Petrillo, who was not Zanetis’ lawyer at the time, said the teen immediately recanted her statement, but the case continued.

Zanetis said that his previous lawyer, who was not identified, convinced the teacher to plead guilty to the lesser, non sexual offense of endangering the welfare of a minor. Zanetis said he was told he supposedly faced conviction and jail time even if the “victim” testified at trial that he was innocent.

The turning point in Zanetis’ ordeal came during a court ordered group-coun­seling session following his plea, when the teacher was encouraged to confess and get help. He said that he couldn’t because he was innocent, and that the girl had recanted her signed statement. The counselor said that if that were true, he should never have pleaded guilty and did not belong in the group.

She encouraged him to fight, and he backed out of the plea deal. Zanetis went to Petrillo, who was able to convince a Long Island judge to then drop the reinstated, more serious charge. The DA consented to the motion to dismiss.

The teen “recanted from day one, and she’s been totally uncooperative with us in our efforts to prosecute him,” said a spokesman for Nassau DA Kathleen Rice, Eric Phillips. But Richard Condon, the commissioner of investigations for city schools, defended his probe, saying, ”They both made statements to the effect that they had a sexual relationship. Do I believe that he’s guilty? Absolutely.” Zanetis said his wife, Monica, “didn’t believe me” when he protested his innocence, and she filed for divorce. “I’m not only clearing my name, but my family name,” Zanetis said.

 

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