By Richard Whitby
The Daily Star
---- — Former Walton teacher Stephanie Fletcher pleaded not guilty at her arraignment Tuesday in Delhi on all charges related to accusations that she had sex with two 16-year-old male students.
Fletcher, wearing a charcoal gray suit, said just one word, “Yes,” when asked by Delaware County Judge Carl F. Becker whether she understood the consequences of violating the terms of her release on her own recognizance, which Becker continued.
She was represented by F. Paul Battisti of the Binghamton law firm Battisti & Garzo. Battisti declined to discuss the case after the seven-minute hearing.
Becker told Battisti in court that it was “premature” to set a specific trial date, but that, if there is one, it will be held sometime during the court term scheduled to begin July 15.
Fletcher and an unidentified man accompanying her were the first people out of the courtroom when Becker adjourned the hearing and made a beeline for a silver pickup truck parked alongside the historic red-brick courthouse. They drove away without commenting.
Criminal complaints against Fletcher, 28, were filed Nov. 14. They accuse her of two counts of third-degree rape, one in the town of Tompkins and one in the village of Walton; one count of third-degree criminal sexual act in Walton, and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child, one in each of the towns.
Third-degree rape charges are filed in cases where a defendant older than 21 is accused of having sexual intercourse with someone younger than 17. Those charges, along with the criminal sexual contact charge, are class E felonies, which carry sentences of 1½ to four years in prison, according to New York state guidelines.
The alleged incidents occurred in January and February 2011, while Fletcher was teaching at Walton High School and Middle School. She worked for the Walton Central School District for about five years before resigning last summer, according to interim Superintendent George F. Mack, who has otherwise declined to comment on the case at the request of the district attorney’s office.
The case originally was brought in Sidney Town Court, but was moved to the County Court in Delhi last month. Michael Breen, the special prosecutor in the case, said by phone Tuesday it was moved because the felony charges cannot tried in a town court.
Breen, who is based in Schoharie County, was named special prosecutor in late November, after Delaware County District Attorney Richard D. Northrup recused himself from the case. Northrup has not publicly said why he did so.