Tuesday, November 17, 2009

NJ: Judge: Denville teacher's rights weren't violated in sex abuse probe


Police did not violate any constitutional rights of a former Denville teacher -- who is accused of molesting a student -- when they obtained his unlisted cell phone number and had the victim call him.

''I find nothing egregious about the manner in which the phone number was obtained,'' Superior Court Judge John B. Dangler said.

After a near-five-hour hearing today, Dangler rejected defense arguments that police violated a reasonable expectation of privacy that Patrick DeFranco had in regard to keeping his cell phone number confidential.

DeFranco, 43, of Fairport, N.Y., was charged in November 2005 with sexually assaulting a student at the Valley View Middle School in Denville when he was a 13-year-old, 8th grade student in DeFranco's computer class.

To corroborate the victim's claims of a long-ago assault, police asked if he would contact DeFranco while they listened in, or conducted a so-called ''consensual intercept.'' The victim had an outdated number, so the help of a school resource officer -- Denville Officer Jeff Tucker -- was enlisted and he secured DeFranco's phone number from school administrators. The victim called DeFranco and the ex-teacher incriminated himself on tape about a past sexual liaison with the student.

Defense lawyer Edward Byrne argued that law enforcement should have gotten a grand jury subpoena to get the number but instead trampled on DeFranco's privacy right and expectation that the district wouldn't give out his number.

DeFranco also testified today, saying he is very protective of his privacy. But Morris County Assistant Prosecutor Meg Rodriguez noted that he freely disseminated his phone number to students and parents when he was coordinating a school trip abroad and expressed no surprise as to how the victim got his phone number.

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