As It Appeared In The Times-Tribune
A magisterial district judge dismissed charges Wednesday against a Tunkhannock Area High School gym teacher accused of inappropriate contact with male students.
Peter Paul Olszewski Jr., an attorney who represents the accused teacher, Ellen Marie Kuzma, said he filed a motion to dismiss the case Wednesday shortly before testimony was set to begin at a preliminary hearing in Sullivan County. Sullivan and Wyoming counties are part of the same judicial district.
In his motion, Olszewski said he argued the criminal complaint was “deficient” and did not lay out facts to support the four felonies and 17 misdemeanors brought, which included institutional sexual assault and corruption of minors.
Magisterial District Judge Jennifer Vandine dismissed the case, which Olszewki called “a huge relief” to the 26-year-old Kuzma.
“These were scurrilous, false, untrue allegations,” he said.
Kuzma was placed on leave — first with pay, then without — amid an investigation that stemmed from a Wyoming County Children and Youth Services referral alleging she rubbed a male student’s thigh and made inappropriate comments.
Searches of cellphones belonging to students did not reveal inappropriate messages.
Tunkhannock Twp. Police Chief Edward Morristell said later Wednesday they planned to refile criminal charges.
“I think that would be an awful mistake on their part,” Olszewski said.
District Attorney Joseph Peters said in an emailed statement they were still evaluating “a decision to refile.”
“We note that, in the interest of justice, the Tunkhannock Township Police Department and The Wyoming County DA’s Office actually provided more detail than is required in the charging document allegations,” Peters said.
In a message, district Superintendent Paul Dougherty said they had received “no notification” from the district attorney’s office regarding the disposition of Kuzma’s case. She remains on unpaid leave.