Court acquits teacher from stun gun trial
SCHUYLER COUNTY--Watkins Glen suspended school teacher Kathryn E. Bartholomew was found not guilty Wednesday, Jan. 6, of charges relating to providing a student with an illegal stun gun last year. The decision was made by Judge Dennis J. Morris, who cited a lack of evidence beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecutor as reason for the not guilty verdict.
Bartholomew was arrested by Watkins Glen Village Police in May, 2015, in relation to a student possessing an illegal stun gun. She was charged with criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree and endangering the welfare of a child, both class A misdemeanors.
"Obviously, I am disappointed with the verdict," District Attorney Joseph Fazzary said. "But, in our system of justice, it is my job to present evidence to the trier of fact, not to determine who is guilty or innocent. In this case, that job was left up to Judge Morris, who based his decision on several factors. The most important of which seemed to be that it didn't make sense that this teacher would knowingly do something like this."
Watkins Glen Superintendent Tom Phillips also expressed his disagreement with the verdict following the trial. He also noted the school will be filing a Part 83 motion with the state in regards to the determination of a teacher's good moral character. Penalties can include revocation of a teaching certificate, suspension of a certificate, limitation of the scope of a teaching certificate, a fine not to exceed $5,000 or a requirement that the certified individual pursue a course of continuing education or training. Phillips said the district will also be filing a 3020-a charge in relation to teacher competence.
"I can't believe a teacher can admit to using a school computer during the school work day to purchase a stun gun, have it sent to their home, bring it to school and give it to a student, change her testimony on the stand and have a judge find them not guilty," Phillips said. "The judicial incompetence demonstrated in this decision is clearly jeopardizing student safety and the safety of the school district."
Fazzary said he felt the evidence given by police officers and school administrators was strong and showed that Bartholomew did know what she bought and gave to the student was a stun gun. He noted Bartholomew's conflicting testimony at trial solidified his belief, but added Morris had to determine all issues of credibility and clearly gave credence to her testimony that she thought the stun gun was a toy.
"This case is a perfect example of the role of the prosecutor to present evidence to show that a defendant committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt," Fazzary said. "It is a perfect example of how the defendant should be afforded the presumption of innocence. The verdict does not affirmatively state that Ms. Bartholomew didn't know that she gave the student a weapon. It simply states that the people did not prove that element beyond a reasonable doubt."