Monday, May 11, 2009

NJ: Principal gets probation for abuse

Sentence ends 2003 case involving Bayley Ellard student, teacher

Ending a case that had dragged on for nearly six years, the principal of the defunct Bayley Ellard High School in Madison was sentenced yesterday to four years of probation for inappropriately touching a 17-year-old male student and, in a separate incident, shoving a male teacher and telling him to keep quiet or face reprisals.

Frank Mattiace, 72, of Montville was charged in June 2003 with second-degree crimes and other charges, but pleaded guilty in January to fourth-degree charges of child abuse/neglect and criminal coercion. Unlike second-degree charges, which are punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a fourth-degree charge is punishable by up to 18 months in jail.

Superior Court Judge John Dangler said he spared Mattiace jail time because he has no criminal history, is 72 and suffers from several serious illnesses and likely would respond positively to rehabilitation.

"Mr. Mattiace, you were put in a position of trust. You were looked upon with respect for many years," Dangler said in imposing the sentence.

In entering his plea, Mattiace admitted he hugged the teen and while doing so "touched his buttocks." He also admitted he "shoved or otherwise offensively touched" a teacher.

Mattiace declined to speak during yesterday's hearing in Morristown.

Morris County Assistant Prosecutor Melanie Smith argued for five years of probation and 364 days in the county jail, saying Mattiace took advantage of vulnerable victims.

"He broke the trust he had" with both teacher and student, Smith said. "He was aware of the problems and insecurities they had."

The victims agreed to the plea bargain because they wanted closure, Smith said. She also read letters from the victims, who were not in attendance.

The former student wrote he was a troubled teen who had abused drugs and enrolled at Bayley Ellard to turn his life around. Instead, Mattiace's actions were only the start of his problems, he wrote.

He wrote that he broke down and told his parents about Mattiace, and they called police. "We decided this would not happen to anyone else, because it was the right thing to do (to come forward), and that's when my life turned for the worst," the teen stated in his letter.

Mattiace's arrest rocked the school and its community rallied in support of the principal. The former student wrote he was ostracized and threatened and that he was told by school officials that his safety was at risk if he continued there. As a result, he transferred to another school. He is now pursuing a law degree.

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