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November 29, 2012

Teacher case gets special prosecutor

Michael Breen of Middleburgh was appointed special prosecutor Wednesday in the case of a former Walton teacher accused of having sex with underage students.

The appointment came just a day before ex-teacher Stephanie Fletcher was scheduled to appear before Sidney Town Justice Steven Rose, but that appearance subsequently was postponed to Dec. 13.

Breen told the court he had another court appearance that conflicted with the Sidney hearing, a court official said.

Fletcher is charged with two counts of rape in the third degree, a charge filed in cases where a defendant older than 21 is accused of having sexual intercourse with someone younger than 17. She also is charged with one count of third-degree criminal sexual act and one count of endangering the welfare of a child.

The two boys with whom Fletcher is accused of having sex were 16 at the time of the alleged incidents, according to court documents obtained by The Daily Star.

In 2009, Breen represented Middleburgh high school teacher Colleen Benton as she sought to overturn an arbitrator’s decision in January of that year that she be dismissed for offering to perform a sexual act on an 11th-grade student two years earlier, according to an article in the Daily Gazette of Schenectady.

The arbitrator described Benton’s actions as “predatory behavior,” according to the article.

In petitioning the state Supreme Court for Benton’s reinstatement in February 2009, according to the article, Breen wrote that the arbitrator made the assumption that Benton’s alleged action would cause “long-lasting harm to the student.”

“On the contrary, anyone with knowledge of 17-year-old boys would assume that most would accept the offer with alacrity and those who, from fear or embarrassment, refused to offer would soon and for the rest of their lives regret not having taken advantage of it,” he was quoted as writing.

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