Former Staples teacher acquitted of sexual assault
Now facing a Civil Suit
Published 1:04 am, Friday, January 1, 2010
After a four-day trial late October, in Milford Superior Court, the jury rendered a "not guilty" verdict on one criminal charge of second-degree sexual assault.
The teen filed the assault charge in 2006, three years after the alleged incident took place. At that time, Eramo was working at Lindenhurst Senior High School in New York. He claimed he lost the Lindenhurst job following the young lady's claim, as well as his residence and the woman he was in a relationship with, said Eramo in an e-mail to the Westport News.
"Since this charade began, I steadfastly maintained my innocence and waited three excruciatingly long years to have this proven in a court of law and decided by a jury of my peers," he wrote in an e-mail to this paper. He added that after losing his job, he was forced to move back in with his parents.
"I have had no full-time work since my wrongful dismissal from Lindenhurst and my life has remained in limbo, on hold, if you will, during this entire ordeal," he said.
Now that a not-guilty verdict has been rendered, Eramo said he's looking forward to trying to put the pieces of his life back together "and to try and restore whatever damage has been done to my name and reputation on a professional and personal level."
"Part of that," said Eramo, "is asking the media to print the outcome of this case and to absolve me from this irresponsible action."
The girl claimed she was sexually assaulted at Eramo's Milford apartment the night they went to the New York City jazz club. She alleged he supplied her with alcoholic drinks. However, Eramo's attorney, John Keefe, of the law firm Lynch, Traub, Keefe & Errante, told the Westport News that if Eramo had ordered a bottle of wine and two dinners, as had been claimed, the bill at a New York City establishment would have been significantly pricier than $47. He added that finding receipts going back that far was not easy.
"There were inconsistencies, things that didn't make sense in her testimony," said Keefe.
The teen had been to Eramo's home on another occasion before the night in question, but that was to watch a DVD she missed when she missed one of Eramo's classes.
Keefe said there wasn't time to lend her the DVD, and Eramo had to go home to feed his dogs, so he invited her over to watch the movie.
"He did her a favor," said Keefe, adding that the teen instead claimed that Eramo lured her to his apartment.
Keefe said Eramo, only in his second year of teaching at the time, was young and naïve.
"He thought he could be their friend and their teacher," he said.
Eramo conceded, "Yes, I was perhaps too naïve as a young teacher. Many things I did quite innocently, with no ulterior motives behind them and were turned around to fit a distorted, perverse context. I reached out to students who needed my help, and was persecuted for doing so. So yes, I was too trusting and far too naïve."
Eramo was shocked in 2006 when he discovered a student from three years prior -- one he said he felt sorry for -- had filed a claim of sexual assault.
"I was dumbfounded," he said. "I was doing very well teaching at another school and going into my third year there. This reckless accusation destroyed my career there and my future career in education as well. I had no idea why she was creating these lies, but the civil suit [filed in 2008] gave me a very good idea with regard to motive."
Eramo added, "Also, she was always in need of being the center of attention, so I thought she was craving yet another starring role in her life, since she did not pursue her dreams of being in theater after high school. The girl has done nothing with her life since 2004 -- so I would make a perfect scapegoat for this."
Eramo said he found out in early 2008 that his former student was also filing a civil suit against him, the Board of Education, 2003 high school Principal John Brady and the superintendent of schools.
"It's our belief that the school knew or should have known that Mr. Eramo was not fit to be a high school teacher before the May  incident," said attorney Cindy Robinson, who represents the woman. Robinson said there were a couple of incidents at Staples whereby school officials should have known Eramo "was not fit to be a high school teacher before the May  incident."
Westport Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon did not respond to multiple calls and e-mails asking for comments.
Robinson said there was a non-fraternization policy in effect at Staples and Eramo clearly violated it by seeing her client on not one, but numerous occasions. Asked why her client waited three years to file a charge, Robinson said it's very common for a sexual assault victim to wait, due to shame, guilt or fear.
Keefe thinks the woman filed the charge for one main reason: to get attention.
"We had an expert doctor testify that people do this for attention," said Keefe.
Keefe added that the teen had some problems, but noted he couldn't go into detail.
"She used to go to him and discuss things with him," he said. "He tried to boost her morale, her self-confidence."
Eramo said it was difficult to prove his innocence, especially when his former student waited three years to file a charge against him.
"How does one prove a negative," said Eramo. "One simply cannot. The fact that she decided to make her ludicrous statement three years later only made the difficult next to impossible.
"All records and files that could be easily recovered -- or witnesses easily found -- were no longer attainable to us. It was simply down to her story versus mine, because in the end, there was absolutely nothing else to draw on, so many years later. How does one defend that? I did my very best to tell the truth as I know it and remember all that I could, and hope that six jurors believed me. Thankfully, they did."
Tracking down old records was not an easy task.
"I tried to get phone records from 2003," said Eramo. "Called the phone company, no help after so much time had passed. I spent thousands trying to recover e-mails on an old damaged hard drive sent to me by this irresponsible woman, to no avail."
As for the civil suit, depositions are being taken, according to Robinson.
"There's no trial date yet," she said.
Robinson said the jury in the criminal case was not allowed to hear certain things. She noted a civil case has a "different burden of proof." The problem, she said, with the criminal proceeding, was that there was no evidence, that it was basically "he said, she said," which can make it difficult for a jury to find someone guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The criminal trial lasted five days (excluding jury selection) and deliberation took about 90 minutes, according to Keefe.